Friday, August 28, 2009

Beer of the Week

It's been a while since we went back to the "Old World" to find a beer of the week. This beer of the week is both Old World and Old School.

The Hacker-Pschorr brewery of Munich traces its legacy back almost 600 years, to 1417. Our beer of the week, Hacker-Pschorr's Anno 1417, takes its name from the year of the brewery's founding.

Anno 1417 is a Kellerbier, or Cellar Beer in English. The Kellerbier is common in Franconia, a region in northern Bavaria. Kellerbier has very little carbonation, due to the fact that the bung is not inserted tightly into the fermenting barrel, allowing the carbon dioxide to escape. Generally, the beer is then drank right out of the keg, with no filtration, giving the lager a cloudy appearance (Naturtrüb or "naturally cloudy" auf Deutsch) and a smooth yeasty taste.

A few Kellerbiers, also known as Zwickel Beers, are available in bottles, such as Hacker-Pschorr's and St. Georgenbraü.

Hacker's brew pours a light and cloudy amber, with a creamy off-white head. The brew smells of toasted malts and just a touch of hops.

The smooth and light mouthfeel is accentuated by the dryness of the malts, and the richness of the yeast. The hops are definitely present in balance, but do not overpower the malts. The beer finishes rich and earthy.

Although Kellerbiers may be hard to find at your local store, this Old World tradition is worth the hunt. Prost!

Links of Interest:

Hacker-Pschorr (Auf Deutsch!)

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beer of the Weekend - My Beer

With as much as I have to say about beer, I am inexperienced in the art and science of its creation. I merely sit on the sidelines, quaffing the rewards, throwing barbs and compliments towards people I don't even know. I am in essence, the equivalent of a theater critic, an armchair quarterback.

To broaden my both my figurative and literal palette, I decide it was time to make the jump into brewing myself.

I had inherited some brewing equipment from an old brewer, and bought some new pieces at my local homebrew store. I picked out some ingredients, enlisted the help of my fiance Amber, and my friend John, and off we went.

I had decided that my first attempt would be an American Style Amber Ale. It seemed that there was a lower probability of screwing that style up, and besides, Amber & I both love it.

We steeped some speciality grains in the mix for some flavor and color, but the base of the brew was from extract. Eventually I'd like to get to all grain brewing, but for now, I'm letting the pros do the mashing.

We used Cascade hops for the bittering, and IPA lovers, it smelled wonderful as soon as it hit the wort. It changed the color of the mix and released a citrus smell throughout the kitchen.

After letting the wort boil for an hour, it was time to cool it down and add the yeast. We used an immersion wort chiller and it worked like a charm. If you're an aspiring home brewer, I highly recommend the investment in this piece of equipment. I've heard that cooling in the sink or tub can take an hour; this took less than 15 minutes.

After that we added distilled water to make up for some lost in the boil, and sealed it up. I'm happy to report that it's bubbling away in the basement and smells delicious. I'll report back on the process as it goes along.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Beer of the Week

Lagunitas (lah-goo-nee-tahs) is a can't miss brewery for those of you into that hopped up, west coast style. Their IPA is a standard setter (especially if you like those citrus, grapefruit IPAs), and their Lil' Sumpin' ale is outstanding.

Located in beautiful Petaluma, California, Lagunitas is located in the Beer Mecca of the US, the Pacific Northwest (sorry Colorado). Similar to other breweries in the area, Lagunitas is known for flavorful ales heavy on the hops.

The Imperial Red (now available in sixers!) is different in that it features the malts more than any other Lagunitas beer I've had. The malts are smooth, caramel, and along with the alcohol, give this beer a huge mouth feel. Despite the relatively "big" presence of this beer on the palette, the smoothness makes it sessionable. Note: at 9.6% ABV, don't "session" too many of these in one sitting.

There are hops present, and they have that signature Lagunitas nose about them: grapefruit and a general citrus. Unlike the brewery's "Maximus" or "Hop Stoopid," however, the hops aren't the feature, but equally, the aren't to be overlooked. This isn't a malt bomb, this is a well balanced ale.

Links of Interest:

Lagunitas Brewing Company

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer: Beverage, Culture, Mediator

The nation (or the media at least) has recently had their eyes fixed on Cambridge, Massachusetts, where an unlikely dust-up between a famous Harvard professor and a level-headed Cambridge police officer again brought up the issue of race in America.

President Obama, being the last major catalyst of this ongoing debate, felt the need to weigh in on the matter, and did so in a way that some found inappropriate.

In an attempt to smooth over his remarks and to generally mend fences in the matter, Obama decided to invite both Professor Gates and Officer Crowley to the White House...for a beer.

To the average American, this made a lot of sense. Conflicts, deals, partnerships, and more are often hashed out over a pint. What better way to make friends or make peace with your neighbor but to invite him over for a brew?

The offering of a beer is a peace-offering, a trust-maker, a crutch. It puts us at ease, and allows us to communicate with some of our barriers aside, even after only 1 sip. It puts us in that comfortable place where we speak our mind, but in a reasonable way.

Politics aside, us beer drinkers have our own questions regarding the suds summit; namely, what beers will they be drinking?

According to ABC, the President will have a Bud Light, the Professor a Red Stripe, and the Officer a Blue Moon.

What do these beer selections say about these personalities? An article in the New York Times noted that Bud is foreign owned, Red Stripe imported, and Blue Moon is served with fruit.

Personally I think that were I to serve beer at the White House, I would serve the finest the Country had to offer. There is, however, something to be said about giving each man his preferred brand. After all, the President is not trying to impress a German diplomat, he is trying to put the parties at ease.

With that said, I think if one is going to hold a beer summit, the choice of the beer to be served is obvious.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Summit Unchained

Attention Midwest beer lovers: there's a new series of limited edition brews headed your way.

Summit is offering up a limited series of beers called their "Unchained" series. The first offering is to be an authentic German Kölsch.

Kölsch, unlike most of its German cousins, is not a lager. The beer is actually top fermented at relatively warm temperatures, like an ale. Although it is often stored for a period of time, or lagered, it is not technically a lager.

Much like tequila, champagne, or cognac, technically only beers from Köln (Cologne) can bear the Kölsch designation. A 1986 German law limited production to Köln and a few nearby breweries that were grandfathered in. The designation was eventually extended to the entire EU.

Indeed, referring to Kölsch brewed in the U.S. the Wikipedia page notes that:

While the labeling of these brews as Kölsch may be legal in local law, it is certainly misleading, as Kölsch-style ales brewed outside the Cologne area are not guaranteed to use the same ingredients and brewing processes, and might therefore differ in their flavor and aroma profile. Further, they may not be compliant with the Provisional German Beer Law, the current implementation of the Reinheitsgebot.

It may be a concern for some folks, but it shouldn't be for Summit drinkers. According to the Brewery:
...we have used only the most authentic ingredients available to produce this beer. We have used 100% imported German malt; a blend of Pilsener and Kölsch malts from the Global Malt cooperative (a cooperative of 3 German Maltsters with a combined 6 maltings headquartered in Osthofen) and a small percentage of Caramalz from the Weyermann maltings in Bamberg. The hops we have used are also imported from Germany and are only grown in the Hallertau region of Bavaria. Hallertau Mittelfrüh are some of the most delicate, distinctive and highly prized hops in the world. Finally, we will be using traditional top fermenting Kölsch yeast obtained from the world-renowned yeast banks at Weihenstephan in Bavaria.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beer of the Week

I know that it's been a while since this blog has been a regular feature, so it's about time to get it back in motion.

Normally I'd save the BOTW for a weekend, but I figure it's been so long you can't complain.

Our feature this week comes from the well known Western Michigan powerhouse, Founders. Founders has been brewing since 1990, but has really become a craft brew staple over the last 5 years or so; with the dry-hopped citrus winner Centennial IPA, and the oil slick Breakfast Stout, it's easy to see why.

I was reintroduced to their Red's Rye at a local beer festival in St. Paul. As far as stand out ales, this brew jumped to mind with other quality entries like Lagunita's Lil' Sumpin' Sumpin' and Grand Teton's IPA.

Red's Rye P.A., as the bottle says, pours a rich amber color with some hints of red. The beer has a nice head with some significant lacing. There's a huge hop scent, with noticeable grapefruit and some spiciness. The mouthfeel is full and smooth, and the hops are balanced by a really nice sweet malt finish. The hops and the rye balance each other very nicely as they are washed down by the hops.

This is, without a doubt, one of the better IPAs in the country, and perhaps the very best brewed in the Midwest. If you're in Grand Rapids, stop by their beautiful tap room. If you're not, stop by your local liquor store and pick this one up.

Welcome back to Beer on the Brain.

Links of Interest:
Founders Brewing

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hooray Beer Of The Week

Ryan and I just returned from a much needed vacation in Jamaica and with that, this week's BOTW is Red Stripe.

Red Stripe, brewed in Kingston Jamaica, is probably most recognizable by two things. First, the short and squat bottles, with the simple red and white label (which were first used in 1975). Secondly, the 2001 ad campaign featuring a comedic Jamaican played by Dorrel Salmon shouting the catch phrase "Hooray Beer!" Here is a link to my personal favorite, "Red Stripe and Reggae Helping Our White Friends Dance for Over 70 Years".

Red Stripe has actually been brewed for the past 81 years. The company Desnoes & Geddes which created Surrey Brewery first brewed Red Stripe in 1928. Originally Red Stripe resembled more of an ale, heavier and darker. In 1938 the formula we still drink today was created. This formula is 4.7% Alcohol By Volume, it is moderate in body, bitterness, hop aroma and flavor, it also has a low butterstoch flavor, full bodied and has a smooth post palate sensation.

Although now the majority of the shares are owned by Guinness PLC, Red Stripe still is a true Jamaican beer. In 1962 when Jamaica earned its independence from Britian, a newspaper columnist for The Daily Gleaner was quoted as saying:

The real date of independence should have been 1928, when we established our self respect and self confidence through the production of a beer far beyond the capacity of mere Colonial dependants.
Red Stripe also supports and sponsors the Jamaican Bobsled Team, the 2007 World Cricket Tournament, and several reggae music events.

One interesting history note of Red Stripe is that in 1989 shipments to the US were temporarily suspended due to cannabis smuggling in shipment containers of Red Stripe in the Port of Miami.

Go out and get a six pack of Red Stripe and think of warmer places.

Link of Interest (although somewhat limited):

Red Stripe Beer

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Beer of the Week - Victory in Pennsylvania

I purposefully withheld the BOTW a day or two in the hopes that I could give a timely nod to this brewery. The Steelers did not disappoint.

When one thinks "brewing culture," several states in the US might come to mind: California, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, but probably not Pennsylvania. For those who know, Pennsylvania has been a hotbed of brewing culture since this nation was still a group of colonies.

Victory Brewing of Downingtown keeps Pennsylvania's rich heritage alive with a full slate of quality brews. From a delectable Belgian style blond, to a premium pilsner, Victory's slate runs the gamut, keeping quality high throughout.

Our BOTW is a year-round brew, an accurately named ale called Hop Devil. I'm generally leery of any beer that has "hop" in the name, but perhaps I should alter my prejudice, having been wowed by beer the likes of Hop Whore, Hop Slam, and also Victory's Hop Wallop.

If you need a classification beyond "ale" I guess I would call it an APA. Drinking it yourself is probably a better way for you to find out exactly what it's all about.

The drink starts with a punch to the palette, bringing those grapefruit you smell to life. Beyond the citrus, there is also a bit of a "grass" taste that really rounds the citrus into a spicy, earthy, tangy hop experience. The German malts don't get lost in this little demon; they hold their own, giving the beer a smooth mouthfeel and a clean round finish.

When you sit down to drink almost any Victory product, be careful. If you're anything like me you'll have the thought..."Man, I could drink 8 of these." While drinking 8 is not advised, sampling all of Victory's wares is.

Victory? Win.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Lookin' for Suds in All the Wrong Places

Brew pubs in Utah?

Now this is some change I can believe in!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beer of the Week

One could speculate that since I haven't been tending to this blog and writing up beers, I haven't been tasting new and exciting brews. One would be wrong.

This week's BOTW comes to us from a place familiar to those acquainted with the American brewing revolution, Northern California.

Located about 30 miles north of San Francisco, Moylan's Brewery in Novato, California has a wide array of beers, including a pale ale, an IPA, a Stout, a barleywine style, and the star of our show, "Kilt Lifter" Scotch style ale.

A Scotch ale, or "Wee Heavy," as it is sometimes known, is one of four distinct brewing styles to come out of Scotland. The other three are called "Scottish Ales," and are named to reflect their increasing original gravity: light, heavy, and export. A Scotch ale has an original gravity higher than all three.

Barley being an abundant crop in Scotland, malt was never in short supply. In fact, when Scotland joined with England in 1707, the treaty specifically exempted Scotland from a malt excise, further encouraging the region's malt heavy ways.

Hops crops were another story. The common bittering agent refuses to flourish in Scotland, forcing Scottish brewers to use other ingredients for bittering like ginger, spices, and other herbs. Thus we have the malt-heavy and hops-light brews that comprise the style of the Scots.

Kilt lifter pours a dark amber color with a nice, tight, off white head. A caramel and biscuit smell is married with some fruity aromas (oh my God, is that watermelon?).

The beer is sweet and thick, but not as thick as some other Scotch ales out there (McEwan's). There's definitely a strong malt sweetness to the front, but it's complimented with a raisin taste and a distinct and just slightly bitter finish. There are earth tones in this beer, but not peat to the extent of a Scotch whiskey.

If you are leery about trying new Scotch ales, this is a quality beer not to fear. The malt isn't overpowering, and the earthiness of it doesn't knock your socks off. A fine outing from Moylan's.

Links of Interest:

Moylan's Brewery

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Recipes on the Brain

What is the next best thing to drinking delicious beer? Why cooking with it of course. Combining my love of beer and my love of cooking not only provides me with tasty food, but also a better understanding of the flavors that shine through in certain beers.

Today I would like to share with you one of my favorite and easiest recipes I make involving beer:

Slow Cooker Kielbasa in Beer

3 Cloves of Garlic
1 Medium Onion (I prefer red onion to add color)
7 Medium Potatoes (Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes)
1lb Polska Kielbasa (use the best you can find, check your local meat market)
1 Can or Jar of Sauerkraut
Spoonful of Horseradish
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Beer Ingredient:
2.5 bottles of an Oktoberfest Style Beer (My favorites to use are Paulaner Oktoberfest or Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest; if you don't have access to either, a brown ale will work in a pinch)

1. Turn the slow cooker to high. 2. Rough chop the garlic, onions and potatoes and toss them into the slow cooker. 3. Next, cut the Kielbasa into chunks that are about 2 inches long and add to the slow cooker. 4. Then add the horseradish and spices. 5. Finally, add the beer and the sauerkraut and stir.

Let the whole thing cook for about 4-5 hours checking in on it about once an hour to stir and see how it is coming along. If the beer boils down but you are not ready to serve, simply add a little more beer or some water. It is ready to eat when the potatoes are fork tender.

Enjoy with some spicy ground mustard and the rest of the 6 (or 12 if you are up for it) pack.

Links of Interest:

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Hello 2009!

Ok, I know, we have really been bad at the whole keeping up with the blog thing. Moving to Minneapolis, starting a new job for me, and Ryan starting law school has had our minds on other things. But I promise that we will be back soon posting and sharing our love of beer. Check back soon for reviews, recipes, and rants.

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