Monthly Archives: March 2010

Drinking It All: #19 Red Brick Blonde Ale

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

not a dumb blonde, but a simple blonde

So I’m finally finishing up with the beers I’d saved up to post about. This is the last one. I don’t have the bottle in the picture, like I usually do, because the label came off the beer at some point, and you’d just be seeing a plain brown bottle–not that informative. But I do remember what beer it is based on the bottle cap. This is the Red Brick Blonde Ale from Atlanta Brewing Co.

This Blonde ale does what most blonde ales that I’ve had do best: taste and look almost exactly like a lager. It’s very light in color, and the taste is mild, to put it mildly. It does have more taste than, say, a big American domestic lager but not quite as much as a beer like Pilsner Urqell or Sam Adams’ seasonal Noble Pils. Actually, now that I think of it, this beer reminds me a lot of the Noble Pils. Except that you don’t get much hops in the Blonde Ale. So, it’s on the right track. The malt taste is pretty mild as well. These kinds of beers serve as good introductions to craft beer for people used to drinking only the big domestics. Blonde ales are also good first beers for homebrewers to make (it was actually the first beer I made).

Blonde ales, as a type of craft beer, are interesting to me in that they’re easy beers to drink because of the mild flavor, which puts them in good company with the big domestics. But they also are made with more attention to detail and care than most domestics, so they usually are more expensive and a sixpack should last more than a couple of days. In other words, you won’t fill up an ice chest of them to go to a crawfish boil (unless you just have shitloads of money (or more money than me anyway)) because of the cost, but they are often appealing because they bridge that gap between the domestics and craft beers. It seems like their tenure on a person’s favorite beer list is limited at best. So I find it unlikely that many people would be really into this type of beer, not because they’re not good, but because they’re so simple.

But blonde ales are what they are. This Redbrick Blonde is a good all-around example of what a blonde ale should be. It’s easy to drink because of the mild taste, but it’s got just a little more to it than the domestics, which should get the drinker interested in what else is out there.

Obviously, there are probably countless people out there who like various types of beer and still like blonde ales even though they’re so mild. I do not mean to talk shit about or demean the importance or intricacies of this beer. So tell me about some other blondes that prove me wrong.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Overall–up. But it’s not a beer I’ll be likely to get again. Unless I win the lottery and tire of drinking High Life while I’m on the riding lawnmower.

Drinking It All: #18 Terrapin Hopsecutioner

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

athens, ga: r.e.m.=good., neutral milk hotel=good., hopsecutioner=good.

Back on to some IPAs. Today I’ve got Terrapin Beer Co.’s Hopsecutioner. Hopsecutioner is just one of several IPAs that brandish a clever title involving hops due to the high hop content. This kind of beer, to me (and others, I’m sure), is more a hops delivery vehicle than anything else. Which doesn’t really sound that appealing, but it sometimes is enough.

Terrapin’s IPA has its (and a few other beers’) share of hops. The hops’ bitterness is so prominent that it tastes like extra carbonation. But it’s a lightly carbonated beer. (I’m not sure that description makes any sense–so I’ll try to clarify. The hops’ taste is so sharp that it resembles the biting feel of carbonation.) I’d like to say I know what type of hops they used in the beer, but the label doesn’t say, and I’m not quite experienced enough to be able to tell in a blind taste test (I assume some people might be–I’ve got a ways to go in that dept.). I’m pretty sure they aren’t Cascades, and I’d guess (maybe poorly) that they’re a much higher alpha acid variety like Magnum or Columbus. Don’t quote me. But if you know, definitely tell me.

So the rest of beer taste is–I don’t know. I’ve had some hoppy beers, but drinking this one, and trying to think critically about it instead of just drinking it, I don’t think I’ve had many that were quite so hop-driven. If you don’t like hops, this ain’t your beer. But if you do like hops, I doubt you’ll be let down. Long story made short: can’t taste the malt. Just taste the hops.

This beer is relatively high in gravity (7.3% alc./vol.) so there must be a significant amount of malt that went into the making, but I can’t really recognize it, and I’m ok with that in this case.

I had the chance to try this beer on tap in Nashville a couple of weekends ago, and it’s as good there as it is in the bottle. Actually, good beer’s always better on tap than in a bottle. So if you have a chance to pick this one up, do it.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. If hops were medicine, this would be the snake-oil salesman’s real magic in a bottle.

Drinking It All: #17 Sam Adams Double Bock

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

double bock. insert doublemint gum joke here.

I’ve been doing some mind-numbing reading this afternoon and thought I’d break it up (or end it) by posting about another fancy beer I’ve been saving. A friend brought me some of Sam Adams’ Double Bock a few weeks back, so I made sure to keep one to post about. Here we go.

This Double Bock is a lager, which is a type of beer I don’t review much on this site (aside from the cheap domestics). I want to say that typically people don’t think of lagers as dark beers, but obviously there are several lagers that are dark–bocks being one of them. Thus ends my supreme knowledge of bocks.

And this beer looks and tastes like a lager. It’s very clear and tastes clean (if that makes sense) as opposed to the more cloudy look and, to carry out poorly planned figurative language, dirty taste of ales. But this beer is strong. The smell is very sweet, in a good way, and (you) realize that I’m not really a fan of sweet beer. The taste is heavy on the malt and very light on the hops. I’d love to know what type of hops they use for this beer because they work as a balance to the malt sweetness by providing bitterness, but they also seem to work as a stepping stone for the taste of alcohol, which is fairly prevalent in this beer (9.5% alc./vol). To be such a big, in taste and alcohol, beer, it’s a ridiculously well-balanced beer.

The label on the beer says that they use half a pound of malt for each bottle of beer. This translates to the sweetness and to the high alcohol content. And they put that amount into perspective by explaining that that amount of malt is about what you’d need (in grain, I imagine) to make a loaf of bread. I won’t speculate on the calorie count. The label also claims that this beer is one of their “most sought after brews.” I’d believe it. I’m not a fan of all things Sam Adams (particularly the Coastal Wheat–gross), but I’ll admit those fuckers know what they’re doing. They’ve sold me on this one.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. The high alcohol means you can/should drink it slow=longer drinking time=good.

Drinking It All: #16 Amnesia I.P.A.

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

if by amnesia IPA they mean forgettable IPA, then they nailed it

Back to the fancy beers. Today I’ve got the Amnesia IPA from Indian Wells Brewing Co. in California. I’ve been saving this beer for about a month–I picked it up while out of town a while back and am just now getting around to reviewing it.

I’m by no means an expert on beer types/tastes, although I’ve had enough IPAs, and like them so much, that I’m pretty confident I know a good one when I come across it. This beer is pretty good, but it reminds me more of a Belgian ale, like the Old Stock Ale I reviewed a while back, than of an IPA. It has the bitterness that you’d associate with an IPA, but it also has a more substantially malty taste than most IPAs I’ve had and like. The smell reminds me of the pale malt extract used for making beer. To be honest, the beer itself tastes a good bit like malt extract. I don’t think this is a particularly good thing, and it’s the biggest problem I have with the beer.

I can tell they’ve added a significant amount of hops to this beer, and that’s good. But the hops take a backseat to the malt flavor, and that’s bad for an IPA (in my book of beer goods and bads).

I’ve never had any other beers by the Indian Wells Brewing Co. that I know of. I’d be interested in trying more, even though I’m not really a fan of this one. Their label claims that the beer is “Brewed In Small Batches With Only Honest Ingredients/ Pure Indian Wells Spring Water, Malted Barley, Hops and Yeast.” Nevermind that they left out the terminal comma in a list and the vague/confusing “Honest Ingredients”–I can tell that they mean well. Anyone who makes interesting, if sometimes unsuccessful, beer with care deserves a second chance, I think. I’ll just be more interested in trying a different beer out of their line-up.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? I’m going with down, but I could probably be convinced to try it again for a re-review.

Drinking It All: #15 Steel Reserve

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

211 is apparently the medievil symbol for steel. who the hell knows what that has to do with the beer?

This’ll be the last of my cheap beer posts for a bit. I’ve got lots of good beer waiting in the refrigerator to be posted about, and I want to get to it.

A little while back, I bought a 4-pack of Steel Reserve, and I’ve had 3 so far–on the fourth right now.

What does Steel Reserve taste like? Not much. Carbonation more than anything. This beer gives me as severe an apathetic response as apathy can be severe.

Steel Reserve claims to be high gravity–clocking in at 6.0 alc./vol. I guess that’s higher than, say, Budweiser, but I don’t think I’d be advertising high gravity when in such a case ‘high’ is as relative as ‘expensive’ is to someone making minimum wage and the CEO of The Steel Brewing Company (maker of Steel Reserve).

That’s really all I’ve got for this beer–if beers were sentient beings, this beer would be the most indifferent and lazy beer it could be. It doesn’t care if you like it or not, and it’s not going to try to make you do either. It’s on the couch, watching a marathon of MonsterQuest, debating whether it’s worth it to get up and pee.

Thumbs up of thumbs down? Who cares?

Brewed Slowly: #5 Kolsch

This is the first beer I’ve made in a little while. Actually it’s been over a month since the last beer I made. So that’s longer than I’d like it to be. I don’t think I got too rusty in the meantime, but we’ll see. I waited to post about this beer until I bottled it, and right now, the beer’s just gotten into the bottles. We’ll see it again in a couple of weeks or less depending on how impatient I am. I decided to make a Kolsch this time. It’s not a beer I’m very familiar with, but it sounded good.

The Kolsch style, as best I understand, is an ale that can be lagered (fermented at a lower temp. (50-60 F)) and resembles the clean and bright taste of typical lagers. Since most of what I’ve made so far have been pretty traditional ales, I thought something like a lager would be interesting.

The software:

6 lbs. Northern Brewer Wheat Extract

0.5 lb Belgian Pilsner Grain

1 oz. Perle hop pellets

0.5 oz. Cascade hop pellets

Wyeast 2565 Kolsch liquid yeast

kolsch boil

I started out with the 0.5 lb of pilsner grain steeping at 150 F. After 30 minutes, I took out the grain and brought the pilsner tea to a boil–this always takes longer than I think it will.

When the liquid finally came to a boil, I added the extract (I always let the liquid extract sit in a bowl of hot water to loosen up the thick syrup that is the extract so it pours out easier) and the 1 oz. of Perle hop pellets.

This boiled for an hour. I added the Cascade hop pellets just short of the extract boiling for a full hour. At three minutes exactly the Cascades went in.

After the wort cooled for a while in the ice bath, I pitched the yeast and closed that sucker up. It stayed in the primary fermenter for about a week; the original gravity was 1.042 (3/7) and it got down to 1.010 (3/15) before I bottled it.

almost in the bottles

Also, I thought it’d be fun to report on the records that I listened to while I was making the beer. And for each beer in the future, I’ll list what was playing while those beers are made.

While I was making this Kolsch, I had on:

Mission of Burma-Vs.

The Flaming Lips-Embryonic

Pavement-Wowee Zowee

Man Man-Rabbitt Habits

Sonic Youth-Sonic Nurse

I’ll see if I can taste any of these records in the beer.

Drinking It All: #14 Natural Ice

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

it's exactly what it looks like

I really thought it might be fun to try some of these cheap beers and post about them since you probably won’t read about them in any serious beer publication, internet or otherwise. But I’m about ready to post about some good beers–and I’ve got plenty saved up. But before I’m done with the cheap beers, I’ve got two more to cover. And they’re serious cheap beers.

We’ll start with Natural Ice. Yes. You read it right. Natural fucking Ice. A/k/a Natty Ice.

It’s hard for me to say who this beer is marketed towards and/or who actually buys it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drinking it–much less buying it. But despite all logic and reason, this beer exists.

Quickly, I’ll cover the taste. To be honest, it tastes about like Beast, but with more sourness. This is not a good thing. Remember how I said Beast wasn’t quite as bad as it’s made out to be ( That was me being fairly generous. Natty Ice tastes worse than Beast. So, bad.

Now let’s look at the packaging. The can’s label/design looks like it was put together by a 13 year-old boy who’s into cars with lots of chrome accessories. Also, imagine said design was printed out on a printer from the early 90’s–fuzzy dots covering everything. Enticing? That’s the kind economical design that speaks to the product’s ultimate purpose.

I’ve pointed out the bylines on some of the other cheap beers, so I’ll call attention to Natty Ice’s as well. “Ice brewed for a naturally smooth taste,” says the label in a substantially smaller font than the “5.9% alc./vol” that appears just below (priorities). I do not pretend to know everything about making beer; I know barely more than someone who knows nothing about the process. But. I’ll be damned if something called “ice brew[ing]” doesn’t sound like a big stinkin’ pile of bullshit. And I bet against the probability that there has ever been a person standing in a curb store trying to decide between Natty Ice and anything who notices said byline and figures what he/she really needs is a beer that was “ice brewed.” Could be wrong, but it definitely doesn’t sell it for me.

Not a good beer. Pick something else. I drank it so you don’t have to.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Down. See above.

Drinking It All: #13 Keystone Light Tallboy

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

look out this beer's in a "specially lined can"

look out, this beer's in a "specially lined can"

The next stop in cheap beer land is Keystone Light. This beer is Coors Light’s little cousin, just as Beast is Miller Lite’s little cousin. The fact that I’m not a drinker of Coors Light, or really any Coors product, should make this review fairly objective (or that’s what we’ll say).

There’s a label on this beer’s can that claims it’s “Always Smooth.” These two words are trademarked as well, so just imagine I put the small capital TM after Always Smooth. This post is in no way an attempt to usurp Coors’ trademark of “Always Smooth.” Ok. We’ll just say they’ve taken some creative liberties with the word smooth. Interested yet?

Keystone Light is, admittedly, a beer I’ve had a fair amount of times prior to the one I’m drinking right now. I’ve been to frat parties, and I’ve also been to establishments that serve cheap beer from Coors taps when said taps’ lines run back to Keystone kegs. (This is only heresay/conjecture. Take it as you like.) However, the 4-pack of Keystone Light that I bought for this post is the first I’ve actually purchased Keystone in longer than I can remember (we’ll say at least 6 years, possibly more).

So how does it taste? It tastes about like you’d think. (Excuse the rhetorical ?’s.) I can’t think of a beverage that exemplifies the term watery more so than this beer. Please remember some of the ways I’ve described beers in previous posts, or go back and read some if you haven’t already, and now understand that basically none of those terms apply to this beer, Keystone Light. This beer tastes about like someone made a sun-tea with regular beer ingredients then added alcohol. But somehow it’s also sour. So sour water that tastes mildly like beer. But it has alcohol.

This is a party beer, plain and simple. Not something to be had in any situation where drinking a case of beer in one sitting isn’t a medal of honor (sorry about the double negatives–I think it makes more sense though).

Also, this beer boasts an interesting byline: Specially Lined Can. I’m no metallurgist, but this beer tastes like the can could have been lined, specially, with tepid water. Or less-than-mediocrity. Whichever’s funnier, you tell me. It’s a shitty beer.

Thumbs up of thumbs down? Down. You could specially line the can with gold and I wouldn’t buy this beer (again)–at least not to drink.

Shit's On Now

There is now an official beer refrigerator on the property. Here’s a picture of the fridge (sp?) that’s in the basement:

makin' it cool

Marvel at its ability to extract internal heat from items (i.e., beers) and leave them cold to the touch. Magic! See how it stands free of cumbersome generators and complicated machinery. Self-contained! Super! Is that a handle allowing easy access inside the machine? Goddamn right it is! In there’s where the beer goes!

Now that we’re done with all the shouting, here’s what the refrigerator (correct spelling–looked it up) is going to do:

1. House any prospective beers that need to be fermented at temperatures other than whatever the hell it is in the closet. That means you, lagers.

2. House any amount of beer (or food during holidays) that doesn’t fit in our regular refrigerator.

3. House kegs once I begin kegging the beer. This will require installing taps on the door, and hopefully this will happen soon–donations to the cause are welcome (preferably in the form of traffic for this site–tell yo friends).

Important Note–This refrigerator came into my possession as a donation from my good friend Scooter, an aficionado of beers in his own right. He has agreed to accept compensation in the form of beer, which is worth its weight in gold–when it’s good. His contribution is greatly appreciated, and he will certainly get what’s coming to him (in a good way).

I got beer technology, bitches. Pow.

Drinking It All: #12 Milwaukee's Best Tallboy

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

Over the next few Drinking It All posts, I’m going to take a little detour from the IPAs and other craft beers that are likely to cost six or more dollars a sixpack. I invite you to come with me and wander around the seventh circle of beer world (I won’t call it hell–it is still beer) and try some beers you might not have had since the last frat party you went to in college that wasn’t all that fun and made you feel awkward and ready to go. These are beers that don’t usually get much love. But they are still beers–or what we’ll call beers.

big and beastly

We’ll start with an old favorite and oft maligned beer called Milwaukee’s Best. Hereafter called by it’s more famous nickname: Beast (this one is of the red variety).

Beast is made by Miller Brewing and is basically Miller Lite’s little cost-effective cousin. (I’ve been told that the only real difference in the two is the amount of marketing done for Miller Lite–discuss.) It tastes fairly similar to Miller Lite. Maybe a bit hairier. Which is to say that it tastes about like any of the big domestic lagers: little to no hops, just enough barley/grain/rice to resemble beer, and water. This beer is best when it comes out of an ice chest on a hot day and is cheap or free.

This description can easily be read as a negative one; however, I mean it in the best way. Beast is a beer that I remember drinking in college. It was cheap–I was poor, it tasted like beer and had alcohol–I was a fan of both, and it was generally frowned upon by my friends who drank Bud Light religiously–nobody’d steal it at parties. So maybe it’s nostalgia more than anything that has convinced me that this beer is not that bad, but I remain conviced that it’s just not as bad as people think. It’s good when going to the beach, being on a boat, eating crawfish, damn near anything that happens outside in the sun and is ice chest-friendly.

It would be unfair to hold this beer, or any of the big domestic little cousins, up to the same standard as, say, a Sam Adams seasonal. These are beers that have a specific purpose, and usually consumer, that, I think, makes it a little easier to value them for what they are. The same as you wouldn’t wear dress shoes to play basketball or running shoes to a job interview, you’d not drink Beast in the same situations as you would Sam Adams. Or maybe you would, but the exception doesn’t negate the analogy.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up, if the situation demands it.