Monthly Archives: June 2010

Drinking It All: #31 Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

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 it's an oatmeal stout, can it be considered a part of breakfast?

I had a birthday this past weekend and my good friends Ben and Selena got me a couple of four packs of fancy beer. Thanks, Ben and Selena. Also, they got me beers I haven’t had before. So today I’m trying Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.

I think this is the first stout I’ve posted about (aside from the one I made), which is a shame because I like stouts a lot. Although it seems like I never really like them much out of the bottle (e.g., Guinness and its little plastic widget). But I could drink Guinness on draft all night long.

This stout is, as it says, an oatmeal stout and is supposedly responsible for reviving the style, according to the label. It tastes similar to other stouts, such as Guinness, but I think it has a little more bitterness at the end. Also, it has a roasted coffee kind of taste to it, which makes sense because it’s made with malted barley and roasted barley (generally roasted barley isn’t malted, so it primarly gives flavor to the beer rather than fermentable sugars to be converted to alcohol). This stout is as smooth as any I’ve had save Guinness.

The color is dark black. Black as hell. And the head is the kind of tan color that many stouts have. The carbonation is heavier than a Guinness, and that’s my only real complaint–but wait, if you swirl the beer around in the glass (pretend you’re a fancy-pants wine drinker aerating your wine), you can get rid of a little more carbonation. Basically you’re making it a little flat. And for me drinking a stout, I’m more interested in flatness than fizzyness.

The four packs of this beer are somewhat pricey but not prohibitively so. I’d love to try this beer on draft, but the bottle seems like a good substitute until I can find it on tap.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs up to Yorkshire’s oldest brewery and their ‘Celebrated Oatmeal Stout.’

I’m going out to L.A. tomorrow, and I’ll be keeping track of the good beers I have while in California. I’ll tell you about them when I get back.

Books About Beer: Good Beer Guide Prague & The Czech Republic

I’m not sure there are many things that sound less interesting than a blog post about a travel book about beer, but, you know what, fuck it. A friend of mine, who’s been living in the Czech Republic for a few years now, is in town and he let me borrow a beer guide to Czech beers. I’ve not been to the country yet, but I do love me a good book about beer, so I started reading it this morning.

yes, it's a travel book about beer.

Since this book is a travel guide of a place I haven’t been to and don’t really have plans to go to right now (although the book is very persuasive, Brad), I only skimmed through most of the sections detailing the various bars and breweries. Which these sections make up roughly 150 pages of the book’s total 211 pages of content (I did read the other 60 or so). So I realize this is a strange way to review a book. We’ll call it a recommendation rather than a review.

This beer guide, written by Evan Rail (a frequent contributor to the New York Times’ travel section), does a good job of making clear the kinds of beers you’ll find in the Czech Republic and why they are the way they are. Rail shows an understanding of beer that, to me, seems fitting for a guide focused on the subject–it’s very easy to trust his descriptions and assessments because he supports them with as much objectivity as is probably possible when it comes to taste. He also takes care to point out the beers that are ‘unpleasant’ as he frequently characterizes them. So it’s not all beer and roses. Reading over the descriptions made me really want an unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell and all kinds of other lagers I never thought I’d be interested in.

Also, considering the potential aridness and sharp-as-clay style that I’ve found in most travel books, Rail’s guide is one of the more accesible and enjoyably informative travel guides I’ve picked up. If you’re planning to go to the Czech Republic, or are looking for a good reason to plan to go there, I’d definitely pick up this book. And if you really like beer, the Czech Republic might just be ground zero for beer-philia. Apparently each year the country drinks more than 35.2 gallons of beer per citizen–the most beer consumed per capita in the world. So there.

Beer News: Calagione and Batali Open Brewpub in NYC

I recently (a day ago) found out that two people who I think are pretty damn kick-ass are opening a brewpub in New York City. While I don’t live in NYC, it is possible for me (and you) to go there, so I am excited about the news.

Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, and Mario Batali, who used to be on numerous Food Channel shows and is the owner of Otto (an awesome pizza place in NYC that you should definitely go to if you’re in the city) among other restaurants, are part of a group of people about to open a brewpub on 5th ave. in NYC. From what I understand, the brewpub will be on the roof of a building that will also house several Italian restaurants and an Italian market.

The idea of the brew pub is to combine craft beers made with both Italian and American ingredients with a menu designed by Batali. Calagione is one of four brewers working on the project, and two of the other three brewers are from Italian craft breweries. I didn’t know there was such a thing, which was stupid of me to assume there wasn’t.

I’m a big fan of Mario Batali and his restaurant, Otto, which is the only one I’ve been to, and I am also a documented fan of Mr. Calagione and his Dogfish Head beers. I just about fell off the damn chair when I first read about this.

You can read about it here:

and here:

Of the two times I’ve been to NYC, I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty, inside the Empire State Building, or inside any museums. But the next time I’m there, I’ll be goddamned if I don’t go to this brewpub. You might be too. The place will open later this summer at 200 5th ave. Now you have no excuse.

Drinking It All: #30 Brewery Ommegang's Hennepin

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.

there is no bowler nor green apple in this picture

I just finished watching an episode of Drink Up (on the ‘new’ Cooking Channel that recently replaced the Fine Living Network), which was about beer, and since I wasn’t doing anything else, I got out a beer to review. Lucky me and you. I decided on a Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang–a ‘true Belgian-style saison.’

I’m pretty sure I’ve made it evident that I’m no expert when it comes to Belgian beers. And this bothers me since I’ve read/heard so many times that Belgian beers are basically the end-all, be-all of beer. But in any case, I’m trying to educate myself. This is all justifiably research, correct?

The beer is way light in color–just looking at it, I’d think it was a Big 3 lager. And it’s pretty clear for a beer that’s bottle conditioned (i.e., carbonated naturally by the yeast in the bottle). I’d tell you what it smells like, but I just stuck my nose in the glass to try to figure it out and got foam up my nose. So I can’t really get the smell, sorry. The taste I can get, though.

The taste, for lack of a mental-library of beers to compare it to, reminds me of Hoegaarden. It’s a very subtle taste that still has the yeasty and somehow spicy/fruity taste of the more popular aforementioned Belgian beer. I’d take this beer over a Hoegaarden (and, surprisngly, I actually like Hoegaarden), and definitely over a Blue Moon (eww, Blue Moon). The label claims the beer is ‘a rare Saison Farmhouse Ale – pale, hoppy, crisp, and rustic’ [italicized words appeared in a different color font on the label], and that seems a pretty fair judgement to me. Although rustic is definitely a term that warrants clarification (I looked it up–still needs clarification (although, I know, it’s more a marketing pitch meant to convey some  artisinal aura)).

So but here’s my (official) complaint. The beer clocks in a 7.7% ABV, and that seems a tad too high for this beer.

[I’ll pause for you, dear reader, to gather your jaw up and fasten it back into place.]

I know, it seems ridiculous to complain about a beer having too much alcohol, especially when said alcohol is still at a reasonable level (it ain’t pushing 15% or anything). It’s like saying ‘this ice is too cold’ or ‘this Playboy has too many naked ladies in it.’ But I’m saying it–this beer, I think, would be unstoppable if it had an ABV of 5%, or even less. It’s a light beer in taste as well as color (for those that still judge beer by color, silly people), and the 7.7& ABV kind of limits its functionality as a beer. E.G., you wouldn’t pick up a six-pack to accompany some raw oysters or sit out by the pool. But this is a beer that would be really good in those situations, if it had a more session-beer-comparable ABV. End of bitching.

The label also mentions that the brewery is 3,264 miles from Brussels (it’s in Cooperstown, NY) but that the beer is famous like Tintin, Magritte, and Audrey Hepburn–but not for being Belgian. To which I say: I drink beer, and I drink esoteric beer, and the fact that sorority girls everywhere have homemade ‘art’ comprising quotes of Audrey Hepburn’s (who I can name exactly two movies she was in and, without IMDB, you probably only could too) does not mean she is, or should be, famous to me. End second unannounced bitch session.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Maybe I’m just being a little bitch, but the ABV is too high for me to pick it up again and drink it when I think it’d be best suited. So, down, on a technicality.

Drinking It All: #29 Boulder Beer Co. Cold Hop

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.

man, that's a label

It’s been about a week and a half since I last posted because I’ve been somewhat busy making the bread that my wife and I sell at our community market. But now I’m cracking into some beers I’ve been saving up. Today I’ve got a beer called Cold Hop made by Boulder Beer Company.

This beer looks like a joke. If I’m to be honest. The label reminds me of bad soda labels, e.g., shit like Surge, if anybody remembers Surge. So when I picked this up at a Whole Foods, I made sure I looked over the literature on the label and didn’t judge the beer by its label. That’s just too damn dangerous.

Speaking of the label, the info on it indicates that the beer is a ‘british-style ale’ and that it’s a variation of (on?) one of Charlie Papazian’s recipes. So that’s enough to sell me one. (I did actually only bought one–it’s one of a mixer six-pack kind of deal.) The label also says that the brewers used hops from New Zealand and Czech Republic. Why? It does not say. I do not know.

This beer tastes similar to a pale ale, but, at the same time, it reminds me of strong (in taste) lagers. The hops are prominent, but they aren’t the kind of hops that make you go ‘that’s a pale ale/IPA’ from the bitterness of the hops. The beer is pretty subtle. And it reminds me of a Kolsch because of said subtleness. It’s a real fuckin easy beer to drink, and so I’ll say it is a prime ‘lawnmower beer’ candidate. Although I can’t remember what it costs a six-pack, which is certainly a consideration when picking lawnmower beers. It seems to me that the level of hops in this beer is just about right to introduce someone to the idea/taste of hops without burning his/her tongue with a strong IPA. So, good on it.

The beer’s also pretty light in color–again it seems comparable to a Kolsch (and not just my own). But it smells a little more like a malty lager. Deceiving little beer, ain’t it?

Thumbs up or thumbs down? I’m caught in the middle. It seems pretty forgettable to me, and I doubt I’d ever buy a six-pack, but it’s not unlikeable.