Aug 31, 2011

Sam Adams Bonfire Rauchbier

When I first started this blog, I didn’t want it to be like most every beer blog I’ve read. Most Beer Blogs (and books for that matter) are made up mostly of beer reviews, which I don’t mind, and in fact, enjoy and read quite often. However, I wanted my beer blog to be more about beer in our everyday life, and especially how to get the most enjoyment out of beer. So, I figure, what better way to help everyone enjoy beer more, then to do at least the occasional review. I did decide to do reviews of mostly just rare or unique beers, beers I feel are exceptionally good, or beers that represent the best of a particular style. And, on occasion hopefully, beers that fit all of those criteria.

Look for it!
Well, last night, I found a beer that may do just that. I picked up a Sam Adams Harvest Classic’s 12 pack last night, mostly because I love the Harvest Pumpkin Ale. There are normally a few other solid offerings in the pack as well. This year, they have added a new one, Bonfire Rauchbier (pronounced row-ch-beer).

Now Rauchbiers have been around for quite some time, since the mid 1500’s in fact, and trace their origins to the town of Bamberg and the district of Franconia. This style is normally mid to dark brown to ruby red, looking much like a Marzan or Oktoberfest styles we are more use to. What sets these beers apart is that the raw (green) malts are dried over open fire pits of (normally) beech wood. This imparts a very unique “smokiness”, hence the name “Rauchbier” (rauch is German for smoke). This is the way all malts were roasted prior to the advent of kilns drying and roasting came into place.

Before last night, I have only heard of this style, and new very little about it. So, I was eager to give it a try, plus I thought it had a great label (as most of the Limited Run seasonal from Sam Adams offerings often do; such as. Old Fezziwig and Holiday Porter). So I poured the bottle into my favorite globe glass and took a look. Right away I noticed the lack of a thick head, and the beautiful ruby brown color. The smell was about what I expected as well, smoky, with a nice malty sweet balance. Nothing too exciting at this point. The taste however, was a new experience for me. This is going to be hard to explain, without sounding like I didn’t enjoy this beer, but it had the flavor of, well, a campfire. Sort of like the same smoky sweetness you get from letting your marshmallow catch fire when roasting it at the campfire (something I love to do!). There was the great smoke flavor, which was balanced out very nicely by a malty, caramel sweetness that worked really well together. The further into the beer I got, the more the smoke flavors became more and more prevalent, while the malt flavors quietly slipped slowly into the back ground.

Even though I was sitting in my living room, while it was still over 103 degrees at 9:30 at night, this beer still made me remember the many a times staring into the soft orange glow of a campfire, letting the dancing flames lull me into a state of near hypnosis. I am not sure I have ever had a beer that says autumn quite like this one does. If you like to try new, unique beers, by all means, get yourself a one of these verity packs.

A few tips I would offer you if/when you get your hands on one of these gems. First, don’t drink this one right out of the bottle; get a proper glass to drink it out of, in fact, an large bulb wine glass would work perfectly (I’ll be writing more about proper glassware at a later date). One of the most defining features of this beer is its aroma, and you won’t get to experience most of that drinking it right out of the glass. Second, open the bottle, pour it in the glass, and let it sit for a few minutes. This beer is at its best at about 50 degrees.

Aug 29, 2011

Beer Facts / Trivia

I had a lot of very positive responses from the last two “beer quote” posts, so I thought I would do a piece on beer “facts”. Now, I put “facts” in quotes because some of these have not, or really can’t be verified as true, but are accepted by most as being grounded in reality (for the most part). So take a moment, and educated yourself on some little known beer facts.

A beer lover or enthusiast is called a cerevisaphile.

There is an Egyptian beer, called bousa, that is brewed from millet and has been a favorite drink of many for over 3,000 years. Modern Ethiopia has a version made from wheat. It has been hypothesized that this might have been the origin for the word “booze.” Other spellings used are boza, bouza, and booza. Take your pick.

About 4000 years ago, it was the accepted practice in Babylonia that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer, and because their calender was lunar based, this period was called the "honey month" or what we know to day as the "Honey moon"

Before invention of the thermometer, brewers used to check the temperature by dipping their thumb, to find whether appropriate for adding Yeast. Too hot, the yeast would die. This is where we get the phrase " The Rule of the Thumb"

A pint, "mind it"

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender used to yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. From where we get "mind your own P's and Q's".

Beer is not mentioned (by name) in the bible. Wine was mentioned, many times, but not beer. Instead, the Bible makes mention of "strong drink” more than a few times, which some translated as fermented beverage made from grain (i.e. beer).

The first consumer protection law ever written was enacted over beer by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516. It was a purity law limiting the ingredients of beer to barley, hops and water. Known now commonly as “The Reinheitsgebot”
The First Beer Recipe

The oldest known written recipe is for beer. A recipe found in 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet was for beer.

Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world, coming in behind tea.

Pabst Beer is now called Pabst Blue Ribbon beer because it was the first beer to win a blue ribbon at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Aug 27, 2011

House keeping update....

I've had more then a few people mention to me that they were unable to leave comments on this site. Well, I realized I had the comments setting restricted to only folks logged into Google. I have since changed that, so that any one the feels the need can now leave a comment.

Thank you!

Aug 26, 2011

More Quotes....

I got a very positive response from my last "Beer Quotes" post, so I thought I would add a few more for you all to enjoy.........

“God, I’d give anything for a drink. I’d give my god-damned soul for just a glass of beer.” – Jack Torrance, The Shining

“This is grain… which any fool can eat. But for which the Lord intended, a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about….. beer.” – Friar Tuck, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

“I drink to make other people interesting.” – George Jean Nathan

“Pretty women make us BUY beer. Ugly women make us DRINK beer.” – Al Bundy, Married with Children

“Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drank, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, “It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.” – Jack Handy, Saturday Night Live

“I like beer. On occasion, I will even drink beer to celebrate a major event such as the fall of Communism or the fact that the refrigerator is still working.” – Dave Berry

"The sum of the matter is, the people drink because they wish to drink."-Rudolph Brand

"Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."

-Winston Churchill

"An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools."

-For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer."

-Abraham Lincoln

"Whoever serves beer or wine watered down, he himself deserves in them to drown."

-Medieval plea for pure libations

Aug 24, 2011

Beer Myths....

As you can probably imagine, over the past few years, I have had more than a few discussions that have focused around beer. It is one of my favorite topics. I love discussing all topics around beer. Most of the discussions start with questions for me, a few of which I have discussed on this blog (i.e. “what is the best beer you’ve ever had?”)

However, on some occasions, these discussions start off with someone commenting on some aspect of beer or beer culture. There is one thing these comments normally have in common, and that is that they are more often than not, incorrect, or at the very least, misleading or just opinion presented as fact. There are so many “facts” regarding beer that we all seem to “know” when the fact of the matter is that there is no real basis for them in truth. So, I figure I would spend some time discussing these tad bit.

Myth #1 Guinness tastes better/different in Ireland.

This isn’t really true. While Guinness my in fact seem to taste better when in Ireland, it is the same beer we get here in the states. There are some things to consider however when looking at this myth. First off, the Guinness in Ireland is slightly fresher then what we get here; it takes about two weeks for a keg to reach the states on average, thus affecting the taste somewhat. Chances are, the bar tender in Dublin serves a lot more Guinness then one in Omaha, so there for, is much more proficient at tapping and pouring Guinness, which anyone that has tried will tell you, there is an art to pouring a perfect Guinness. Lastly, Guinness probably tastes better in Ireland, for the same reason a Mia Tia tastes better when you drink it on a tropical beach, then when sitting at Applebee’s. You are drinking that drink “in context” so to speak.

Myth #2 Dark beer is stronger than light beer.

The World's Strongest beer, just over 32% ABV
Truth is, the color of the beer has very little, if nothing at all to do with the strength of the beer. Case in point; pour a glass of Westmalle Triple, or La Fin de Monde, next to a glass of an aforementioned Guinness. Guinness has an ABV of 4.2% (exact same as Bud Light), while Westmalle has an ABV of 9.5%, and Fin De Monde is 9%, both of which have a very pale (cloudy) yellow/straw color, compared to Guinness’s near black appearance. Dark beers get their color from roasting some or all of the grains the go in them. In fact, the longer the roast, the darker the beer will be. If there is an effect on the strength of the brew it is because roasting can effect the grains ability to render alcohol in the fermentation process, making that beer “weaker”.

120 Minute IPA
Myth #3 Imported Beers are stronger the domestics

Not even sure why people think/believe this. This to me is like saying foreign cars go faster than American cars. While, this may be the case with some brands, I hardly think a Mini Cooper of Fiat 500 is going to beat many Mustangs or Corvettes off the mark. You simply just can’t make generalizations like this. Again, let’s look at Guinness, imported from Ireland at 4.2% ABV. Dogfish Head in Delaware brews 120 Minute which steps into the ring at around 20% ABV (that’s 40 proof beer people!).

Myth #4 Beer should be served ice cold, in an ice cold frosty mug.

to cold????
This may be how some people enjoy their beer in many cases, but saying that is like saying all hot dogs should be served with catsup, or all steak should be served medium well. It is mostly a matter of preference. However, many people think the colder the beer, the more flavor, when, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Flavor components have an ideal temperature range. In fact, cold temperature will suppress many of the flavor components in beer. Cold will also dissipate CO2 quicker, making the beer more flat and less flavorful. So, if you really want to “taste” the beer, most beers have an ideal temperature range of about 40 to 50 degrees. Ice cold beer, will however, be more thirst quenching and refreshing.

My wife with a fine beer!

Myth # 5 Woman don’t like good beer

Many people will often ask me “why don’t woman like a good beer as much as men?” All I have to say to this is, have you met my wife????

This are just a few of the many myths I have come across. I will explore more at a later date. In the mean time, if you have a myth you would like to see on here, or if you have questions about beers, or even if you disagree or see something you feel is inaccurate list above, by all means, let me know, and I would love to discuss it with you. Just keep in mind, if you disagree with something above, say, you enjoy ice cold beer in a frosty mug, I’m not saying you are wrong to enjoy you beer in that matter, I am just presenting an opposing view point.

Aug 22, 2011

Beer Quotes....

Just a small collection of some of my all time favorite beer/drinking quotes…

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."

-Frank Zappa

"Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world."

-Kaiser Welhelm

"A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her."

-W.C. Fields

"If God had intended us to drink beer, He would have given us stomachs."

-David Daye

"Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink."

-Lady Astor to Winston Churchill

"Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it."

-His reply

"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."

-Humphrey Bogart

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."

-Dave Barry

"Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire."

-David Rains Wallace

"People who drink light 'beer' don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot."

-Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."

-Henny Youngman

Aug 21, 2011

The "Best" beer I ever had.......

People often ask me “Ken, what is the best beer you ever had?” I think a lot of people ask me this question, thinking they will get a detailed, in-depth description of some rare, expensive gem of a beer that next to no one has ever heard of, and even fewer have tried. I don’t really have an all time favorite beer that I can answer that question with. There are a few stand outs that will always come to mind when I think of my “favorite”, Founders Devil Dance, New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk, Great Divides St Bridget’s Porter, Chimay Blue, La Fin De Monde are a few that always come to mind. However, I normally prefer to answer the question by telling them about my most memorable beer. That is easy for me, and the answer to that question is…………Mickey’s! I know, not what you were expecting, so let me explain…….
Table Top (on the left) at Sun Set

It was the day after Thanksgiving, the year, probably 1996, or 97. My father and I decided to take a hike to work off the massive feast of the day before, and set out eyes on Table Top Mountain, a flat top “Mesa” 20 or so miles south of Casa Grande. The drive in was a dirt road off I-8 that took us 15 miles into the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The 15 mile drive took us almost an hour, due to the fact that it was not a very well maintained road, but we also made the attempt to drive it in my dad’s little Hyundai Excel hatchback. We somehow made it to the parking area, and made our way down the trail. Now this trail is just over 3 miles to the top. The elevation gain is just over 2000 feet. So we were figuring a fairly steep, but doable hike up. Well, after hiking in 2 miles, according to our GPS, we had only gone up about 400 feet. So the last mile, we would go up just over 1500 feet. Needless to say, the hike was tough. I remember standing straight up at one point, and reached out my hand, and my finger tips touched the trail in front me. The weather was also a little warmer then we were expecting, and after making our way up to the top, we rested, and realized we were dangerously low on water. So we made our way back down, finishing up the water we brought about half way down. So we made the rest of the way out to the car, then had to make the almost hour drive back to the freeway, sans water. By the time we made it to the highway, we were both parched, and in need of rehydration. However, my dad suggested we stop and get a beer, and well, I being who I am, decided that sounded great. So we stopped at the first store we came too, a general store that supported an almost abandon RV park for retired folks. Well, if we were expecting at least a decent beer selection, we were sadly mistaken. They had Bud Light, Coors Light, and Mickey’s. The only size singles they had were 40’s, so dad and I each got a single 40 once Mickey. Now normally, I would never have gotten a Mickey’s, and even less likely for me to enjoy it. However, given my condition, the taste of this below average beer dancing across my taste buds was not a sensation I will soon forget, nor will I want to. I can honestly say, rarely since that day, has a beer tasted better to me than the one I drank that day, straight out of that big mouthed bottle, wrapped in a brown paper bag!

The truck stop.

Is this really "the best"?

Too often, I think “beer people” such as myself tend to get a little too concerned with who made the beer, how it was made, what it was made with etc (see my previous post) and we forget, sometimes we should just enjoy a beer as a reward for a long, harder than expected hike, or a lawn well mowed, house just cleaned or whatever. Sometimes it should be more about when, and why you are drinking the beer, rather than “what” beer you are drinking. To me, how and why are normally far more memorable then what.

Aug 15, 2011

What is a "Good Beer"?

I am asked this question a lot. I think people ask me this question expecting a long drawn out answer, which delves into various aspects of beer and its production, such as ingredients, style, brewing technique, aging, price point, and most importantly, the label on the bottle.

I would argue that, on an individual basis, these aspects of beer have very little to do what one should consider a “good” beer. These things will make up what one might consider a “quality” beer, but a good beer? I argue a good beer has to do with one thing, and one thing only, taste. I’ve had many beers that I would consider “quality” beers that I did not care for at all. Conversely, I’ve had beers that many would not consider “quality” beers that I absolutely love.

Enter, the “Beer Snob”…..

A "Beer Snob"
A term I hate to be called, but have called many people that vary same thing. Why do I hate to be called a beer snob? Because I don’t feel I am. I purchase beer based on a number of things, style, price, a brewer I respect, and most importantly, taste. However there are really only 2 things that will prevent me from buying a beer, price, and taste. If it is too expensive, I won’t buy (i.e. Lost Abby’s “Angels Share”, $30 a bottle) or taste (Bud Light, Coors etc, not because they are brewed by one of the “Big 3”, I just don’t like the taste). A true “snob” will dismiss any brew from the big 3. I don’t buy beers from the big 3 normally. To me, there are far better offerings out there, however, when offered some of what they brew, I will take them and enjoy them. Some examples, Shock Top and Blue Moon, (made by Anheuser Busch and Coors), I think these beers are quite enjoyable. I know more than a few folks that won’t even consider drinking it, and have even heard some make fun of those that do, because they are made by the massive brewers. It’s even getting to the point where some great craft brewers are being lumped into this category because they have gone national. Boston Beer Company (makers of Sam Adams) and Sierra Nevada are getting large enough to be losing some of the more die hard “beer snobs” despite the fact that they produce from quality, very tasty beers. Dogfish Head has taken heat recently for being the subject of a TV show on Discovery.

To me, that one thing that has no bearing on quality in a brew is the size of the batch it is made in. If you make a great beer, and you make it in a 250,000 gallon batch, does that make it any less great? If you make an awful beer 5 gallons at a time, does that somehow make it just a little better?

So, if you were looking for a list of recommendations from this post, sorry, I can’t suggest to you what I think you might like, at least not without talking to you first, and learning the styles and beers you know you currently enjoy. My best advice to you, try it, if you like it, it’s a good beer. If you love it, then congrats, you’ve found a great one!