Good Beer, Bad Names

I had a discussion with my brother-in-law today about bad beer names.  While I certainly understand the merits of a good product name and its effect on sales, I do not think that craft beer follows the same pattern as most other consumer goods.  Call it hipster if you want, but the craft beer movement’s exponential growth has been particularly counter-cultural.  I’ve certainly seen my share of delicious beers with ironic or silly names.  I am of the belief that, while name is important, its ultimately secondary to the quality of the beer.  Obviously, I don’t want an offensive or unappetizing name, but if I can be convinced to try a beer, then the name doesn’t change the experience.

My brother-in-law, for the most part does not agree.  For example, while we both believe that Clown Shoes is the worst name we’ve ever heard for a brewery, I am not opposed to trying their beer, while he is vocally against it.  In fact, I tried their Vampire Slayer Imperial Stout (which is a ridiculous, but somewhat clever name for a smoked stout) and absolutely loved it.  However, unless I buy him a bottle, he’ll never know whether it truly is enjoyable or not.

Because I am stubborn and love to stir the pot, I took this as a sign that I need to start using some bad names for some of my better beer.  Call it a social experiment.  I also have decided to start building a list of the world’s worst beer names.  Pretty much any beer Clown Shoes makes deserves a spot on this list.  Leave a comment if you’ve seen a beer name worthy of the list, or have an original idea for a bad beer name!  Also, let me know if you’ve come across any good beer with a bad name.

R.I.P. AMERICAN PALE ALE

Alas!  My first American Pale Ale is no longer with us.  After falling behind on my schedule and letting this little guy sit in the fermenter for an extra week before kegging, I finally had time to keg on Saturday.  I prepared all my equipment, took a whiff of the beer (which was extremely pleasant), began racking into my keg, took a reading on the final gravity, and noticed that it was coming up a little short.  I drew a sample for tasting and it was sour!  OH NO!

5 gallons of beer goes down the drain, along with a lot of my emotions.  A bunch of equipment goes into the trash.  Anything that can’t be heat sanitized has to be replaced.  Unfortunately, StarSan doesn’t kill the bacterias associated with sour beer, so I have to be very careful not to cross-contaminate.  Since I had already started racking, I had to boil off some water and pour it into my keg.

While I was bummed enough to not brew my tremendously popular Belgian IPA with Elderflower on Sunday, I’m not letting this get me down as much as it did the first time it happened.  Onward and upward, and I will be much more careful next time.

Review: Schneider Aventinus (and a history of wheat beer)

I am currently working my way through Roger Protz’s 300 BEERS TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE!  This was a gift to me from Adam Alter, and has become somewhat of an obsession to me.  I have tried many beers in this book, but have only currently scored 45 of them.  I suppose this is still something to be proud of, as I have a dozen or so at home that just have to be tasted and scored, and many of these are incredibly difficult to find.  Since this is the first review I’ve posted on this style (and book), I will give some background.

Wheat beers have their roots in Bavaria, where the Reinheitsgebot (or Purity Pledge) of 1516 says that beer can only contain barley, water and hops.  This law is still adhered to in many parts of the world, though it has been updated to include yeast.  What I find most interesting is that wheat is not part of the law.  Apparently, this is because the authors of the law were royals who had no desire to allow outsiders to drink wheat beer!  But I digress.

In Bavaria, law dictates that wheat must be at least half of the grain bill in order for the finished product to be considered a wheat beer.  Barley must still be used, because there are not enough enzymes in wheat for a full and proper fermentation.  Wheat tends to give beers body and mouthfeel, and many people would say that wheat beers are more filling than other styles.

There are multiple styles under the blanket of wheat beers, including Belgian Witbier (I’m brewing one of these this weekend!), sour varieties like Berliner Weisse, and the broad Weissbier, which includes the popular Hefeweizen (unfiltered), Dunkelweizen (dark), and Weizenbock (strong wheat).  I’m sure I will hit on these other styles at one point, but the beer I’m focusing on today is the Aventinus Weizenstarkbier (also known as Weizenbock or Wheat-Doppelbock).

In 1589, Georg Schneider was given a license to start brewing wheat beers for the general public.  Eventually, he founded what is claimed to be the oldest continuous wheat brewery in the world.  And man, do they make a good wheat beer.  As a rule, I am not a fan of this style, but the Schneider Weisse and Aventinus are certainly two of the best I have ever had.  The Aventinus was first introduced in 1907.

Like most wheat beers, Aventinus has a huge frothy head.  The color is dark red, and the aroma has hints of raisin and banana.  Banana is common in german wheat beers due to the yeasts used and fermentation temperatures.  The mouthfeel is full, with the same raisin and banana flavors that the aroma suggests, as well as lots of spice and clove.  This is a rich beer that is easy to share.  At 8%, it might even been too big for some to tackle single-handedly.  It’s fairly affordable.  Depending on where you shop, you should be able to pick up a bottle for around $5.  I gave the Aventinus an overall score of 9 out of 10.  According to Roger Protz’s account of a conversation with Georg Schneider VI, if you lay Aventinus down for 25 years, it resembles port wine.  I have no idea how anyone could let this beer sit that long.  It didn’t last 3 weeks in my fridge.

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Feeling Blessed

As I have recently expanded my brewing capabilities to a 2-keg system (see photo below), it seemed logical to expand the way in which I chronicle all my experiences.  I am currently brewing faster than I can drink and share, so my stores have been increasing.  I find this to be a great blessing.

Beer is not just a drink to me, or even just a hobby.  It is a passion.  I have always loved the feeling of creating something unique from raw ingredients.  The capability to do this on a regular basis and share it with people in such a delicious format is part of what drove me to homebrewing.  My dream is to open a brewery someday and serve my beer to even more people.

As I mentioned, my stores have been increasing.  Not only do I brew more, but I find my collection of commercial beers steadily increasing.  I hope to use this blog to post many of my reviews and hone some skills.  As an added bonus, maybe I’ll get some people to try something they hadn’t thought to try before!  Check out the list of things I have waiting to be enjoyed and reviewed:

Commercial
Chimay White
Chimay Red
Chimay Blue
Hinano Tahiti
Lucky Buddha
Schneider Aventinus
Alesmith Old Numbskull
Old Crafty Hen (currently one of my top 3 favorite beers)
Class of ’88 Barleywine
Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer
Firestone Double DBA
Firestone Sucaba
Firestone Anniversary XVII

Homebrew On Tap:
Hammer ‘N’ Ale Irish Red
In Bottle:
English Porter
ESB
Whiney Dancer English Barleywine

February 2014 Homebrew Project
February 2014 Homebrew Project

Old Stock Cellar Reserve (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)

Name: Old Stock Cellar Reserve (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Style: Old Ale
ABV (%): 13.16
Brewery: North Coast Brewing Co.

I’ve had this beer shelved for about a year.  I’ve been told a lot about it, and it is the most expensive beer I’ve ever had ($25/bottle).  The most important thing I’ve been told is that once I’ve had it, no beer will ever taste the same.  That’s a lot to live up to, but at $25/bottle, I don’t think it’s too much to ask!

Right out of the bottle, I could tell this was an epic beer.  It pours a super light head, chocolate in color and lace in consistency.  Brown and red in the glass, and a tiny bit dirty.  The head retention on this beer is just so-so.

It smells of malt, dark fruit, sugar and most of all, bourbon.  Rich and fruity.  It reminds me some Avery ales I’ve had in the past, but not as thick or chewy.

This beer is absolutely delicious.  Rich and complex at the same time, which is so rare in beer.  Bourbon flavors throughout, lots of toffee, brown sugar, dates or figs (can’t quite tell), some light vanilla and nut on the back end.

There really is no way to describe how fantastic this beer is.  The strong aroma fills my head while I sip, and it just improves the experience.  The best way I can sum this up is to say that $25 is not overpriced, and I will absolutely without a doubt have this beer again.

Look: 9
Smell: 10
Taste: 10
Feel: 9
Overall: 10

Grade: A+

Beer Geek Breakfast

Name: Beer Geek Breakfast
Style: American Double / Imperial Stout
ABV (%): 7.50
Brewery: Mikkeller

I’ve been dying to try this beer for awhile now, and for several reasons.  First, the flavor profile advertised just sounds fantastic.  Second, I’ve never had a beer from Denmark.  And third, this is one of the coolest beer names I’ve ever seen.  All of the aforementioned reasons have made me curious to the point of obsession.

Poured from a 1 pt. 9 oz. bottle into a freezer chilled pint glass.  I probably poured this a little too cold.  I just took it out of the fridge and it went right into the glass, but it will warm as I sip.  It pours super super dark.  No sunlight can escape this beer.  Dark enough to swallow anything up.  It is where bad beer goes to die.  I haven’t had Deschutes Abyss in quite some time, but I find it hard to imagine that any beer can earn the name Abyss above this one; not by appearance alone anyway.  There is a 1/2″ frothy coffee head that just won’t dissipate, no matter how many times I throw glances at it as I ramble about the darky darkness.

It smells as any good Imperial Stout should and does.  Coffee, chocolate, oatmeal, malt, with some nuttiness.  And now I want an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

The first sip of this beer refutes any comparisons I make between this and other stouts.  Before I can even break down the flavors, the bitterness hits.  It is very much like espresso in mouthfeel, but not overpowering in flavor.  Still, make no mistakes, this is a man’s beer.  I’m not saying this to shoo away women, but rather anyone that is a lukewarm beer drinker.  If you’ve never had an Imperial Stout, don’t make this your first.  It’s not a benchmark for the style.  It is very unique.

Despite the bitterness of this beer, it’s creamy on the tongue and not too sharp.  Hop bitterness usually makes beers taste sharp, and often herbal, especially California pales.  They’re ideal for drinking with something spicy or fatty.  The bitterness will cut through the fat.  This beer might be good with a steak or something smokey or gamey, but it’s easy to drink at the same time..

Overall, this is just an outstanding beer.  Unfortunately, it’s $10 a bottle, which makes it a bit of a one-off.  Still, I have no regrets about the purchase, and I highly recommend it to anyone that is a fan of North Coast Rasputin or Deschutes Obsidian Stout.

Look: 9
Smell: 7
Taste: 8
Feel: 9
Overall: 9

Grade: A-

Bavarian-Styled Doppel Weizen

Name: Bavarian-Styled Doppel Weizen
Style: Weizenbock
ABV (%): 9.00
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company

Thank you, Scott, for another fine beer!  Poured from a 1 pt. 6 oz. bottle into a freezer-chilled pint glass.  Then sampled by my wife before I even had a chance to taste it myself.  UGH!!!

I was sad to see that this had absolutely no head retention, though admittedly it could be because you don’t pour this style of beer into an American pint glass.  Lesson learned.  The color is light, dirty, with a little bit of caramel tinge.

It truly smells like a hefe.  Banana at the forefront.  Fairly wheaty, too.  Sweet and savory in my nose.

Super thick on the tongue.  Just like the nose, there is an abundance of banana.  Clove, too.  Tangy, sweet, almost syrupy.  Not lightly flavored and wheaty like the American hefes usually are.

While thick in flavor, this beer is not too thick in the mouth like a strong ale.  It’s easy going down.  Rich with a slightly bigger aftertaste.

Overall, this is a fantastic beer.  Lagunitas usually spits out solid IPAs, while lacking in other styles.  This is easily my favorite Lagunitas beer thus far, and it makes me much less hesitant to experiment with their beers some more.

Look: 6
Smell: 7
Taste: 9
Feel: 9
Overall: 8

Grade: A-

Personal Tasting Notes, Reviews, and Updates on Homebrewing.