Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quick Sips: Founders Double Trouble DIPA

First things first: If you are a lover of big IPAs, go get this NOW. The fresher the better. It's seasonal. Limited run. GO BUY IT.

So anyway, at the moment, Founders is among my favorite breweries. Pretty much everything they do is good, and much of what they do is world class. Double Trouble, an imperial IPA, is no different. While half the craft beer community goes gaga over Hopslam, Double Trouble quietly blasts the hell out of palates everywhere.

Crack that bottle and pour it. The aroma is all pungent piney hops, like a forest in the mountains of the western U.S.

Drinking it, you get swift bitterness, BIG, yet not harsh. This beer is well-balanced despite the massive hopping. Must be a big malt body, but can’t detect it. Unlike other imperial IPAs -- Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA comes to mind -- this beer isn't big on sweetness.

Overall, another outstanding entry in Founder's already great roster.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quick Sips: Dogfish Head Ta Henket

So this one has a story. Dogfish Head is known for resurrecting beer recipes from the deep past, so-called ancient ales. These aren't exact recreations, of course, but modern interpretations of what that ancient beer might have been based on the historical record, local ingredients, and so on. This beer is brewed based on what we know about ancient Egyptian beer, and even includes wild Egyptian yeast. You can see the creation of this particular beer on an episode of Discovery Channel's Brewmasters.

Like many Dogfish beers, this one takes an adventurous spirit to appreciate. The smell is musty like a wet doormat. Yes, that sounds bad, and ... well, it doesn't smell great, actually. Not as bad really as a wet doormat, but that's what it reminds me of. Kind of wet, kind of musty, kind of damp burlap.

There is some spice in the taste, an earthy kind of spice with the vaguest hints of dark-but-dull fruit and a finish that suggests earthy herbal tea. The middle of the taste has this weird cigarettes-filtered-through-tasty-fruit-tea taste that sounds terrible but isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. It's pretty nice, really, once you get acclimated to it. Different. Herbal. Natural. And interesting. The beer finishes surprisingly clean and refreshing.

Dogfish is adventurous as hell and I love their ancient ales, but unlike Sah'Tea, Midas Touch, and Theobroma, I wouldn't call this one foray into the past essential drinking.

Also, Dogfish people, don't package this is 750ml bottles, put it in 12 ozers! I think it would go over better in that format.

For more information on this beer, check out its official page. It's on shelves right now, for a limited time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

HOMEBREWING: The fate of my empty beer bottles

When you start homebrewing, empty beer bottles become a commodity not unlike rupees or pesos. You hoard them. After all, they will soon contain your precious gold. Here is what happens to my empty beer bottles:

That stuff on them is Oxiclean, and dammit, Billy Mays was right, this stuff is a miracle. Hot water + Oxyclean and in 15 minutes beer labels are floating at the top of the tub, fully intact, looking great, and your bottles get all sorts of clean.

The bad news is that homebrewing is a hobby that causes you to start keeping beer bottles. And no, significant others don't like that. The good news? Homebrewers are environmentally friendly!

So save your bottles, clean 'em, drink up, and be glad you're saving the world.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Quick Sips: River Horse Hop-a-lot-Amus Double IPA

River Horse is very quietly one of the best breweries in New Jersey. For my money, Flying Fish is the best, but only by a hair. River Horse is nipping at their heels. It helps that River Horse has a double IPA like Hop-a-lot-Amus and Flying Fish (as of this writing) doesn't.

This is a pretty straightforward DIPA, with a pine-laden aroma and a fat malt backbone. The malts are maybe too much a part of this beer, however, but it's hard to tell. River Horse doesn't date its bottles, and that is ESSENTIAL to knowing if you have a great pale ale/IPA or not. For real, date your damn bottles.

Bottom line is, this is a good beer that could be better. What I got had decent citrus hops and strong malts, but who the hell knows if I got it in optimal condition? Come on, people. Date it. Balance it. And date it again so us beer geeks know when we're getting an old bottle.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Quick Sips: Samuel Adams Third Voyage Double IPA

Discounting the Longshot entries, which aren't technically beer recipes by Samuel Adams, this big beer is their first foray into double IPA territory, and comes courtesy of their new small batch series.

The aroma is a heady swirl of pine forest and canned peaches. Other double IPAs are more pungent, but for their first effort Sam Adams does it nice. So a pour and a taste? Strong bitterness. Not harsh, but bitter enough to smash through any other tastes lingering in your mouth. This one is a palate cleaner -- which is exactly what you want from a DIPA.

That said, the 8% alcohol by volume is not well masked. This is a strong beer and you can taste it. Even at refrigerator temps some alcohol heat cuts through, which is unusual for modern American craft brews. As it warms, the alcohol becomes even more prominent. Proceed with caution.

Overall this is a good beer, not a top tier double IPA but quite respectable and likely to impress anyone who is a Sam Adams aficionado.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Making the case for canned beer


There is a stigma attached to canned beer. And hey, that's not surprising. For most American beer drinkers, the notion of beer in a can conjures up images of old men downing 12-packs on the porch, college kids chugging cheap piss by the 30-pack, meatheads crushing beers on their forehead, and rednecks tossing out empties of Bud nips in the woods.

But here's the thing: If you care about the quality of your beer, cans are actually BETTER for your beer. Really! Consider a few things:

1) No skunking. Despite what you may think about beer being old or being left in a hot trunk or whatever, the only thing that makes a beer get skunky is UV light. It's called being light struck, and it's why smart brewers use brown bottles instead of clear or green. Light reacts with hops in a bad way and causes skunky beer. That's why your Heineken and Yuengling are so often skunky. Their green bottles. Cans? They allow no light at all. And that's good for your beer.

2) Easy Transportation. Imagine you're driving to your buddy's barbecue or taking home a load of beer or coming home from a multi-state trip with a load of regional beers. Yeah, I don't need to say any more. Cans are better for transportation, aren't they?

3) No More Metal Flavor. Remember the days when canned beer tasted like canned beer? They're over. Modern canned are lined. No more can taste (unless you're silly enough to drink from the can, which is a bad idea because all you'll taste is the can). Modern beer cans are lined with the same crap that lines your cans of green beans and tomato soup*. So drink up, Johnny.

4) Drink While You're Out! Out at the park? At the beach? Hiking in the woods? Rafting on a river? Cans can go places bottles can't. They're easier to lug around (see #2), many parks ban glass but are okay with plastic and metal, and for those that don't allow alcohol, cans by brewers like 21st Amendment don't look like beer, paving the way for outdoors fun for all. And hey, what is better than enjoying a beer in a great outdoor setting?

5) Easy storage. They stack easier than bottles. They take up less space. You don't have to worry about random breakage. You can stack up a big ass pile of cases in your closet or garage or wherever and it'll be cool. Hell, you can throw them on their side and that's probably cool, too (though I don't know if the tops are lined, too, so don't take my advice here). So storage is awesome. Super awesome. Super duper awesome.

6) Better Recycling. Recycling aluminum rocks, and nothing is cheaper, easier, and more profitable for recyclers than aluminum. Want to know a bit about recycling and why it doesn't always make sense? Check out this video, along with part 2 and part 3. I won't deny that these guys are off base at times, but they're right about one thing: Recycling aluminum is cheap, easy, profitable, and benefits the environment. So hey, drinking canned beer is green!

7) Minimal oxidation. What the hell is oxidation? Essentially, it's stale beer. It is oxygen interacting with the beer. Here is a beer geeky essay on the topic. In some beer styles, such as barleywines, a limited amount of oxidation is desirable. LIMITED is the key word. In most cases, oxidation is bad. And yeah, guess what? A sealed can is far better than a capped bottle when it comes to protecting from this beer-killing phenomenon.

8) You Can Be Counterculture. You want to be hip, don't you? Of course you do. Yeah, you think you're already hip with your craft beer and limited releases and shit, but think about it ... are your other friends touting canned beer? Of course not. And make no mistake, canned beer is trending upward. Heck, even Sierra Nevada is canning beer! Now you can be ahead of the curve! Start cheering cans now and you'll look like a prophet in a few years!

9) Cans Looks AWESOME. Okay, this is subjective, but folks like 21st Amendment really know how to make beer packaging look amazing. And hey, look, we're all friends here, so we can admit that we're all shallow assholes who get sucked in by pretty things, right? Because I am. I really am. And I buy their stuff all the time because it looks so cool. (Of course, it helps that they brew fantastic beer.)

10) Number ten. This entry makes it an official top 10, even though it has no content. So, errr ... cans. Yeah!?

*In the interest of full disclosure, right now beer cans are lined with something that contains BPA. Even though many canned foods have this liner, it's new to beer. In addition, there are now some concerns about its long-term effects. So know your stuff before you commit. Personally I'll keep trying canned craft beer, but only because it's a minority. If it becomes a majority, I'll want to know more.

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