1

The Answer to Disasters of All Kinds? Beer

Apparently the Apocalypse has started and the horsemen are named Sandy, Athena, Brutus and … I don’t know, Cindy?

 

Despite the catastrophic weather hitting both coasts in an unprecedented series of weather events, people are trying to put their lives back together. That’s the name of the game, of course. For some of us, that means picking up the debris and rebuilding. For others, that means putting together something to help those in need.

 

Many a time, charity events coincide with good beer. This is a largely unspoken-of trend in the craft beer world. Many events are done to raise money for historical locations, like the Newport Storm Summer Luau that benefits Fort Adams. Others are less obvious, but support a broad range of causes from homeless shelters to cancer research. Craft beer people are generous people.

 

If you’re a beer bar owner, or somehow in the craft beer world, this storm is a good opportunity for you to do some good. Putting together a charity beer event might take some time and effort, but the rewards are beyond anything tangible. With the rise of all these super storms, we’re going to need all the help we can get to keep rebuilding. The Red Cross asks for monetary donations, and what better way to do that than to raise money with craft beer?

 

Think about it. All you’re asking people to do is drink good beer and be social. And it helps people rebuild their lives. There’s no downside!

 

For some out there, this is preaching to the choir. For others, this might spark an idea that genuinely helps people. I’d be remiss in my responsibility as a beer pundit to let an opportunity to spread good will pass by.

 

Now that the elephant in the room is placated, let’s talk about the next upcoming disaster. You see, right about now, people are starting to go insane en masse. It’s as if they are affected by some sort of plague. On a certain day, at a certain time, they will rise in the dead of night, venture forth, and sow chaos and destruction upon the world as they rampage violently through the streets and shopping malls. Ladies and gentlemen, the Christmas shopping season is upon us.

 

I find it amusingly ironic that we choose to worship the Prince of Peace by trampling Walmart employees to buy electronic devices for other people. We obsess over getting the best deals for the hottest items and run up our personal debts in a mad race to outdo each other’s generosity or to save a few bucks while we fulfill someone’s wish for the latest model of the Wii.

 

I don’t know about you, but it sure as hell makes me want a beer.

 

So here are my top picks for beer gifts for your friends and family. Also, please don’t wait until the last minute on this stuff. Relax and take your time; liquor stores don’t have Black Friday specials, and if they do, they’re probably overcharging you to begin with.

 

The Newport Storm Annual ’12 – Every year our coastal extremists down in Newport put out a special anniversary brew. It’s become sort of a collector’s item in itself. This corked, cobalt-blue bottle contains something usually experimental, interesting, and most often delicious. This year’s batch is a strange blend of malty chocolate notes and spicy chipotle and habanero. Maybe that’s your thing, maybe it’s not, but you gotta admit, you want to see the look on the face of the first person to drink it.

 

The Bad Elf Series by Ridgeway Brewing – This line of brews warms my heart even as it chills my soul. I believe it’s still banned in Connecticut because they believe the elf character is an attempt to market to children, but one look at this little toy-builder would make any sane child hide under the covers and wet himself. See for yourself. Find the bottle and take a look. Not exactly a Keebler, is he? The series begins with Bad Elf, is followed by Very Bad, Seriously Bad, Criminally Bad, and Insanely Bad. The worse the elf gets, the higher the alcohol content gets, which may indicate a causal relationship. Each brew is a different style as well, creating a delightful variety to choose from. This, of course, doesn’t include the other brews in the line, Lump of Coal Stout (my favorite,) Santa’s Butt, Reindeer Droppings, and more.

 

Delirium Tremens – I recommend this beer to anyone who’s a fan of Belgian ales, but most fans of Belgian ales I know are fans because of this beer. It really is the perfect example of the style, while still being light, drinkable, and full of flavor. I think I’m dipping into commercial lingo again.

 

This puppy is potent, but don’t worry, the pink elephant you are seeing is just the picture on the label. If you’ve got a friend who loves good beer, get him a bottle of this for his holiday of choice.

 

Imperial Stout Trooper by New England Brewing Co. – Oh, George Lucas, how do you break our hearts? Let me count the ways. No, there is no time.

 

This brew is a perfect homage to Star Wars in so many ways, and a perfect gift to Star Wars fans as well as beer enthusiasts. Its history says it all. Originally the design on the label was extremely close to the look of the Stormtroopers in the Star Wars original trilogy, hence the name. New England Brewing did fairly well with their little brew. Then, came the dark times … the Empire. George Lucas fired a legal warning shot. Apparently he didn’t take being honored very well since it didn’t involve cash. So the label had to be changed. I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know already, but Imperial Stout Trooper made a slight alteration to their label in a very “This is for Jar Jar!” kind of way. Since then, the original label has become a collector’s item, and the beer itself has enjoyed tremendous popularity. It also happens to be a dark, roasty, tasty little stout well worth the hype on its own. May the Force be with you.

Samuel Adams Utopias – If you’re really looking to impress someone, this is still the Holy Grail of the craft beer world. While it varies from year to year, the Utopias is typically a very malty, almost bourbon-like brew that’s only technically a beer based on its ingredients. It might be a bit too hefty for some, but if you’ve got a true beer snob on your list, and a lot of loose cash (if you find it for $130 or less, it’s a steal) it’ll make someone’s Christmas very very merry. Or blurry.

Finally, as always, I encourage everyone to give the gift of homebrewing. The typical saying is “Give a man some homebrew, and he’ll drink it for a day. Teach a man to homebrew, and he’ll discover a new religion.” It’s amazing how often a brief dabble into homebrewing frequently results in a lifelong obsession. A typical homebrew kit with all the trimmings and a couple of ingredient kits will run you anywhere from $100 to $150. I promise you, though, that kit goes a long way. From there, all you need is a stove, some time, and soon the beer shall flow.

It’s a fun hobby that lets the brewer be creative, do something with his hands, and enjoy a good brew.

 

Homebrewing isn’t difficult, unless you have my luck, and once you have the ingredients you can put together a 5- to 6-gallon batch for about $40. The yield is typically somewhere between 2 and 2 ½ cases, meaning that for the price of two typical cases of cheap domestic swill, you can invest a little time and make something delicious. And you can show it off to your friends, impress strangers, or whip up a bunch of Christmas gifts for some craft beer lovers.

If you’re a real enthusiast, or you think your friend might need some help, throw in “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” by Charlie Papazian. It’s considered to be the bible for homebrewing. If your local homebrew shop doesn’t have it, your local bookstore will.

What if your friend is more into wine? Worry not. Most places that sell homebrewing supplies also sell winemaking supplies. You can also make mead, hard cider, any many other fermented fluids in your home this way. Yes, it’s legal. The law says you’re allowed up to 100 gallons per adult, per household, per year. That’s 20 brews with 5-gallon batches per adult in the house every year. It’s like Christmas every couple of weeks!

So when you’re out there fighting traffic and radioactive cannibal zombie mutants, maybe my suggestions will help you save a little time and frustration. Or, maybe I just wrote out your Christmas list for you, and you’re shoving this article in someone’s face saying, “Buy me that! Buy me that!” Either way, try not to let the holiday panic get to you. Relax, have a homebrew, and wait for all this to blow over.

Happy Channukah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Yule, whatever your end-of-the-year celebration with religious significance, enjoy it. It only comes once a year.

Let’s all be grateful for that.




Drinkus Pinkus in the Cellar

I think it’s safe to say, I need to get out more.

With good beer bars popping up like Starbucks, though with significantly less evil and corporate motivations, it’s a terrible shame I only get to visit these great places once in a great while. But every so often, usually when a check comes in thereby making it worth my while to sift through the 15 credit card offers, 10 supermarket circulars, and 15,000 copies of The Reminder, I take that meager amount of money and go have a night on the town.

My most recent outing brought me up toProvidence, where the streets all go in one direction, invariably in the opposite direction you want to go, and parking is like trying to stake a claim on another prospector’s land, but with less gunfire.

Here, I discovered the English Cellar Ale House, a happy little dimly lit hideaway in the basement of another restaurant, but with just the kind of pub environment and dizzying beer selection that made me feel at home.

The beer menu is separated into styles, something that more beer bars should do, ranging from light lagers to hefty stouts and hitting almost everything in the middle.

Walking in, you’ll find a great big red phone booth to greet you, somewhat limited seating, but a nice red pool table in the back and a great big college crowd, what withBrownUniversitybeing a stones-throw away.

Not that it’s a college bar… OK, maybe it is a college bar, but it’s also a craft beer bar, and they have beers on their list that I’d never even heard of, for instance, the Pinkus Jubilate.

Yes, I know, I’d never heard of it either. Naturally I had to order it and find out what it’s like. Turns out, the Pinkus Jubilate is a palate-pleasing, light, German amber lager that’s so smooth and crisp it literally stunned me to silence on my first sip. It’s a rare, and expensive gem, but hey, they don’t pay me the big bucks to cheap out. Actually, they don’t pay me the big bucks at all, so believe me when I say it’s worth the price. This isn’t the brew to knock down to get on the krunk-town expressway. This is the slow-sipping delight that makes you glad you’ve got taste buds. It’s hard to say what exactly it is about the beer that enamored me so. It had so many good elements working for it. I guess when you get right down to it, my advice is to try it for yourself.

The food is a cross between typical pub fare and upscale dining, like their bruschetta flatbread pizza-like appetizer, which, by the way, went very well with my choice of brew. It’s probably for the best, because if they went for an English theme for their food selection, it’d be blood sausage and boiled everything. Sometimes you’ve got to dump your theme where appropriate and branch out a little.

Had I had more time, I might have indulged in more of their impressive selection. It’s rare to find a beer I haven’t heard of, but even more rare to find a brewery I’ve never heard of before. I see it almost as a personal challenge, and I never run away from a challenge… unless that challenge has something to do with math, then I’m a bloody athlete.




Unlimited Sampling at Spring Beer Fest

So pace yourself and don’t be “that guy”

Unlimited Sampling!

Those are the two greatest words to hear at a beer festival if you are attending, and the two worst if you are actually working at the event. Even a 2 oz. pour limit becomes essentially meaningless with unlimited sampling, because no matter what you do, people are people, and will always go too far.
Over the years I’ve told all of you to behave yourselves at the Great International Spring Beer Festival, because it’s a big event with a lot of people, it takes a lot of hard work to put together and deserves a little respect and restraint. This is supposed to be an egalitarian gathering of people who enjoy beer as a craft and wish to enjoy and compare notes with other beer enthusiasts. This is not an occasion to get smashed out of your mind.
In previous years, I’ve given everyone good advice on how to have a good time at this festival without going too far.
I wish I could say everyone listened to my advice, but like the aging father of a teenage girl, my advice falls on deaf ears as you’ve all been misbehaving and sneaking out the window in miniskirts at midnight with bottles of my vodka and the bad boy from down the block that I disapprove of heartily.
All right, so it hasn’t been all of you. But some of you, and you know who you are, have been diligently ruining everyone’s fun. Wait, you don’t know who you are? You’re all looking around as if to say ‘Who, me?’ and batting those eyelashes with your big innocent doe eyes?
Sorry, not working. I’m calling all of you out. I know who you all are.
If you recognize yourself on this list, please pay attention.

Life of the Party

If you find yourself pounding down those 2 oz. samples and shouting for more, congratulations, you’re going to be covered in permanent marker when you pass out at 8:30 and get taken back to the dorm full of your equally shameless buddies. You’ll be at their mercy as you will be unconscious for who knows how long. How about this: Play a new game. It’s called ‘who can keep their wits about them.’ The game is played all night, and whoever is lucid enough to drive home gets permanent ‘can’t touch me’ rights for the duration of college. If you’re not in college, then the prize is getting to pick and choose which facebook pictures of you get to stay up or get taken down. Does this take some of the fun out of things? Yes, but only to people who carry around permanent markers to these events. You can still have a blast without getting blasted, and maybe you can get your friends to take down that picture of you and the goat from last year.

The Glutton AKA The Booth Hopper

If you go through a long line, get to the front of a booth, and then once you’ve gotten your 2 oz. pour, down it and take two steps to the side to cut in on the next booth, please hold still because the rest of the line is about to clock you in the face and kidneys. Those long lines serve an important function called ‘pacing.’ You have to wait three to four minutes for your next 2 ounces of beer? Oh, the horror! Try this: Actually talk to the brewers at the booth about the beer you’re drinking and get a little insight into it. Maybe you’ll learn something. Then get in line like everyone else and be grateful you’re even in line at all. And if you see me doing it, it’s because I actually am special, and a member of the community, so suck it!

The Ladies Man

aka The Creepy Guy

Yes, there’s a lot of attractive girls there. Yes, many of them are scantily clad, or in costume. Yes, it’s fine to take a picture. It’s not fine to try and slip a camera up their skirts or cop a feel in the crowd. That’s a one-way-ticket to a night in a cell. These girls are doing a job, and if they smile at you and act friendly or even mildly flirtatious, realize they’re doing it because they want to be cool, and they’re getting paid for it. Be cool with them, and they’ll be cool with you. If you have terrible social skills, be honest about it. Just blurt out ‘I’m nervous around cute girls.’ You’d be amazed how often that can ease the tension. Then you don’t look insane. If you actually are insane and trying to sexually harass these ladies, be ready to meet a cell mate in the near future. Bring flowers.

Look at Me

This is the person wearing the unusual outfit, hat, or other accessory to attract attention. Unlike the girls at the booths who wear those outfits for promotional reasons, insert joke here, these people are crying out for attention and can get angry and belligerent when they don’t get it. If you find this is you, then maybe you should spend some time looking in the mirror and saying to yourself ‘There’s nothing wrong with therapy,’ over and over again. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and that’s okay. Maybe stop thinking about your novel little costume for a moment and try to be the cool guy who doesn’t give a damn about what people think.

The Wannabe

This guy is always ready with a half-made-up story about how he’s been to a better beer festival and personally drank from the Holy Grail as it was being filled with 120 Minute IPA. This guy looks down on the entire Beer Festival and condemns its corporate tone, yet shows up faithfully every single time to harp on the event while getting in line at only the trendiest breweries’ booths. Listen, man, the thing that makes these festivals great are the people. Be cool, and we’ll all be cool with you. Be an ass, and you’ll be watching all of ours as we walk away.

The Cool Brewer

This guy is more than happy to talk about the beer with you, answer your questions, and hopefully teach you something. Most of the time, these guys have beards. Not always, though. Sometimes the guys are women, so you can never really tell until you talk to them who they are. They’re always happy to hear your praise, and if you have a valid criticism, be gentle and constructive. They’ll listen, and maybe even improve their brews based on your suggestion. Maybe not, but if you’re respectful and cool, they will be, too.

Beer Nerd

These are people, much like myself, who love the subject of craft beer so much that we soak up the knowledge like sponges in swamplands. We’re always eager to learn something new, and if you’ve got a question and the Cool Brewers are busy, you can ask us and we’ll probably know. We’ll be the people with ‘Yankee Brew News’ ‘Arrogant Bastard’ or ‘Hop Head’ tee shirts on, we usually travel in groups, and once again, we usually have beards.

The Booth Girls, aka OMG Get the Camera

I’ve made jokes about the beautiful girls promoting cigars at the festival before, and now they get real acknowledgement. These girls are, of course, good looking and they know it. They’re also a little on guard because, let’s face it, statistics show there’s probably at least a few sex offenders in a crowd of that size. These girls are beautiful, but they’re doing a job, and remember that if your instinct is to try and swagger up and sweep them off their feet. They might have just had to deal with a few Creepy Guys, so it’s possible they’re not in the mood and you won’t change that. Just be cool and casual and you won’t come off as a Creepy Guy.

The Dude

This is the guy who is so at home, so comfortable, so unflappable that he strides through this festival with no fear. He doesn’t need to wait in line at the port-a-john because he doesn’t need to pee. He doesn’t get wasted because he’s taking his time. He doesn’t get into fights, because he’s just too chill. This guy is the best to hang around with because he keeps you out of trouble. He regards trouble as someone else’s problem, and with good reason, because it is. These guys are hard to spot, but they’re there, and they are the best. You’ll find yourself closing the Wild Colonial or The Apartment after the show if you hang around Awesome Guy, and he knows people, so you’ll be tasting the best of the best. Awesome guy is awesome!
So those are the people you’ll meet at the GISBF. If you’re looking to really enjoy yourself, I hope I was helpful, and if you’re looking to get blitzed, you clearly haven’t read the entire article. Well, as always, I tried.

Great Beers to Sample

When it comes to your choice of beer at the festival, and you will have quite a few to choose from, including some new favorites that might pleasantly surprise you all.
Founders Brewing has been hailed as one of the best brews in the country, and after sampling a few of their creations I can’t help but agree. Their Red Rye IPA I’ve already raved about, and their porter is a delicious, dark brew with prominent notes of chocolate and coffee, roasty but not too roasty, and smooth like polished chrome. On an unrelated note, don’t try to eat polished chrome.
Speaking of excellent smooth porters, Berkshire Brewing will be there with their own Vanilla porter, a silky smooth, not-too-sweet brew with real natural vanilla flavor unmolested by fake additives or artificial flavors.
Cape Ann brewing will be there, possibly with their fantastic Pumpkin Stout, possibly not, but that doesn’t mean their other brews aren’t worth a try or two. They make a mighty fine Kolsh that’s more in season with the current season, and definitely give their IPA a try as well.
Of course you’ll always have the Boston Beer Company on hand, dishing out their newest surprises and epic creations, and perhaps even some hop packets as they did several years ago. That was wonderful. I used them to make an IPA at home.
Our new friends at Grey Sail will be there, popping their Beerfest cherries as new brewers. Their Flagship ale is the only one in consistent production at the moment, but I’m sure they’ll have a seasonal on hand to try. Their Winter seasonal was a very nice little smoked porter, and I’m looking forward to what they do next.
Lagunitas has a booth, and hopefully some beer, too. Lagunitas is one of those reall chill breweries that makes good beer because they love to, not just to turn a profit. And oh boy, do they make good beer. Then again, anyone who releases beers named after Frank Zappa’s album history is epic in my, and anyone else’s books. If you don’t know who Frank Zappa is, get some damn culture!
Longtrail will be there as well, dishing out their usual fare and maybe, if we’re lucky, some of their specialty brews on a limited basis. They make a Coffee Stout that’s absolutely amazing. If you love coffee and you love stouts, this beer will make you happy and keep you up all night.
And, of course, there will be many more, possibly including our own Newport Storm, the Extremists from the Coast who will have their usual line, plus, I’m sure, their latest Cyclone series, which is always a treat.
Hope to see you all there, and behaving yourselves.
Cheers!




Founders Lands in RI, Finally

There’s only a few perfect times in one’s life that one can intentionally utter specific sentences in a misleading way and it totally works. For me, one of those times is now: My Wailing Wench is back!
Oh how I did miss the Wailing Wench, the Beast Bitter, Wizard’s Winter, and the Dragonslayer Stout! For those of you too young to remember, or for those of you who don’t drink good beer and probably don’t read this article, Middle Ages brewing once graced our state with these delicious brews. It was a golden age, a Renaissance if you will. (See what I did there?) Also among our shelves were the Three Floyds, Dogfish Head, and others that have since evaporated from RI’s selection. I miss them all, but thanks to some visionary beer distributors, these great brews are slowly trickling back to the relief and joy of the craft beer drinking masses.
But Lo and Behold, the Middle Ages have returned with their blacksmiths, black knights, and black plagues. Actually, they’re back with a line of delicious brews that many of us have been deprived of. The Wailing Wench in particular, with her wonderful illustrated cleavage, greets us with her screaming hops as we dive headlong towards her bountiful bosom of malty goodness, what was I talking about?
How does it taste, you ask? The Wailing Wench is a delicious brew with a bouquet of hop flavors and a sweet body. Insert joke about well-endowed female on label here. No, I’m not lazy. I’ve just done the joke so many times it’s hard to come up with a new twist, unlike the creative twists I could explore with a well-endowed… nevermind. The brew explodes pine and floral notes onto your tongue. I’ve missed this brew oh so much since its departure. Call me clingy, but I never want it to leave again. Though, at 8%, it might be a toxic relationship.

Grand Founders

Also rolling in on the same train is Founders Brewing from Grand Rapids Michigan. Founders is new to Rhode Island, as far as I know, unless I’m too young to remember, which would be frightening to both me and my parents. Their lineup includes titles such as Red’s Rye IPA, Centennial IPA, and their seasonal, the Double Trouble. I hemmed and hawed about my decision but finally decided on the Rye, what with Rye being a running trend these days.
Red’s Rye IPA is another example of a good floral-like IPA that blends with the crisp flavors of rye to create a satisfying and crisp little brew. Now, I’m one to normally shun and shy away from trends, I refer to my rant against White IPA’s last month. But Rye beers and IPA hop profiles seem to have created that perfect blend for a spring or summer beer. It boasts 70 IBUs, and you can taste and smell that right off the bat, then the malty, crisp rye-ness comes in to finish the job and at 6.6%, a few of them might finish you off, too. Founders is a legendary name in craft beer. Between Middle Ages and Founders, who knows, maybe soon the beautiful bliss known as Russian River or Fat Tire will bless our state. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I can do whatever I can to hold my river.




Genny Don’t Lose That Number

’Gansett releases a lovely cream ale
One problem with big mainstream beers is that people expect me to know everything about every new release, and have completely analyzed it within twenty seconds of hearing a name. For instance, when Narragansett first came back a few years ago, everyone I knew demanded that I try it and give my opinion. This was back when I was but a young beer snob trying to make my way in the world, and it came as quite a shock to most people when I didn’t hate it.
It’s a light pilsner lager that, for the price, could be considerably worse. Look at all the other light pilsners out there, especially the ones in cans. Among my choices in the ‘payday’s not for another three days and I need beer’ category, ‘Gansett will trump the Big 3 any time. But there’s two words that strike terror into my heart when I hear them from almost anyone, and those words are ‘cream ale.’
When Grey Sail described their Flagship Ale as ‘In the style of a cream ale’ I thought the phrasing a bit odd and more than a little suspicious, but in truth it’s not anything like an actual cream ale, so I find the description a bit perplexing. It’d be like describing a chocolate cake as ‘in the style of a carrot cake’ because there’s orange frosting on top. Now I’m not picking on either company, I’m just getting ready to try the Narragansett Cream Ale and setting up the proper framework for my following comments so I’m not misinterpreted.
I’ve had two cream ales before. One was Genesee, which to this day I can’t even think about without the urge to start chewing grass, and the other from Haverhill, which was actually fairly decent, though filling, and reminiscent of cream soda.
So I don’t have a wide range of experience with cream ales. But, it’s my job to plunge into the unknown tongue-first and tell the people what my impressions are via colorful metaphors/simile’s.
Initially, right out of the can, the color scares me as it more resembles a particularly foamy champagne. The foamy head coalesces and loiters determinedly like teenagers in South County at the local Cumby’s with nothing better to do. Okay, here we go…
On the first sip, I don’t get a lot, but on subsequent tastings several subtle flavors come out like they’re afraid of open areas but desperately need to get the morning paper. Unlike the other two cream ales I’ve tried, this one neither slaps the palate nor builds a heavy concrete foundation in the stomach. It’s actually a session cream ale if that makes any kind of sense.
It’s simple-sweet, with just a hint of a vanilla-creamy flavor that tries to slip unnoticed past the taste buds like me trying to slip unnoticed past security at the Foxy Lady.
What? I just don’t like being hassled is all.
I’ve been dodging the big question here, ‘Is this beer good?’
Let me put this in terms everyone can understand. It’s not canned meatloaf (yes, this exists), but it’s not Filet Mignon either, it’s a bit closer to the fast-food end of the spectrum, but that’s not a bad thing either. Of course I love a good steak, but I’m not one to turn down a Baconator if I’m hungry and low on cash… and I often am! Besides… Mmmmm… bacon.




Hating on Whitey

Okay, Craft Beer Industry, we need to have a talk.

I’m never one to be a slave to trends, which explains a little about my ostracism in school, but I’ve noticed a new trend going on that we need to put a stop to right now.

When Black IPA’s appeared, they were hailed as bold new style, and everyone jumped on that bandwagon like it was the last ride out of Pompeii on volcano day.

Despite the trendiness, a lot of truly excellent brews appeared. That’s because a little roasted, malty flavor in an IPA can balance the high alpha acid bitterness of hops and create a very tasty, balanced little brew and give a style that’s been beaten to death a whole new life. It worked, is what I’m saying, and not just for one company. I haven’t yet tasted a bad black IPA, though according to the law of averages there must be at least one.

But here’s the thing. Just because something was a good idea and worked once doesn’t mean you can take the same idea and do it again in the opposite direction and have the same effect. Lightning might strike twice, but keep in mind that lightning striking is a very rare occurrence, and striking twice even more so. Sometimes, you’re just going to be standing in the rain with numb hands and a ruined kite.

With that, let’s talk about White IPAs. I’m not a fan of White Ales in general. The particular mix of that yeasty-wheatiness and coriander hits my stomach, which promptly responds with something I like the call the ‘Waiter, send it back!’ response. Tastewise, I guess there’s nothing wrong with a White Ale, and to date, the only one I’ve had that I was really able to enjoy was the Samuel Adams White Ale. But that’s because it was mild, skimped on the coriander, and didn’t try too hard. But combining a White Ale with the hop signature of an IPA sounds like a terrible idea, and in my opinion, really is a terrible idea.

Taking a White Ale into the kind of alpha acid percentage that defines an IPA seems unnecessary. More to the point, it’s counterintuitive. Piney hop flavors will only serve to sour a White Ale’s natural sweet-tart sort of nature, citrus hops can enhance the flavors to a degree. The only way I can see it working is if you used very citrusy hops to give it a lemon-grapefruit flavor, which would eliminate the need for people to drop in slices of fruit to make a beer palatable. I’m looking at you, Blue Moon!

Floral hops would seem to be a more natural mix for this kind of beer, and giving a white ale the kind of hop signature of the infamous Flower Power could create a uniquely pleasurable flavor that might even turn White Ale detractors, like myself, around.

 

And let’s face it, White Ales are not big sellers. Aside from Blue Moon, and sometimes Hoegaarden, I’ve rarely seen a White Ale fly off the shelf with any kind of real momentum. Even the aforementioned Samuel Adams White Ale suffered from very cool sales until it was replaced by the significantly more popular Noble Pils as the Spring Seasonal a couple of years ago.

You might notice by now that I haven’t actually reviewed anything. That’s because I have to be perfectly honest here and say I haven’t tasted a single White IPA that I liked.

Not one.

And yet, there’s a few out there, some from legitimately good breweries that should know better. But then again, this is all opinion. Maybe you love white ales and wish they had more hops in them. Maybe this is your holy grail of beer flavor and you’re reading this with half a mind to write an angry letter. Maybe you’ve already thrown this paper away without reading the entire article. First of all, don’t be wasteful, recycle this paper properly. Secondly, and I don’t want to come off sounding flippant, but what the hell?

BeerAdvocate scores some of these brews into the mid-eighties out of 100. So don’t take my opinion as gospel, I guess, but I just honestly did not enjoy any of the White IPA’s I’ve tried. I guess what we can take away from this is that beer nerds who like white ales will actually enjoy this brew, but if you’re not a fan of White Ales, just do like I will and hide in a basement with a keg and canned food until the whole terrible trend rolls past us like an eighteen wheeler on a rickety old country bridge, ignoring the noise with our fingers in our ears while sipping on bland amber ales until the sun rises again.




Revival: Yet Another Awesome Local Brew

Let’s see what we’ve got this time, eh? ARyebeer? Oh, that’s so2011. Ablack IPA? Well fuggle me, that’s so 2010 I can’t even believe it. Then a Belgian Pale Ale… Well, I guess that’s not a super-trendy style, so I can’t really make fun of it. Besides, it’s not good to mock one’s sponsor, though that’s never stopped me before. Some might call me flippant, but I prefer to think of myself as irreverent.

Sierra NevadaRuthlessRye

I likeRyebeers. They’re usually a nice, light, crisp concoction that can really quench a thirst as well as excite the palate. And since the rye taste works so well with hops, I’ve noticedRyebeers are coming with more and more of an IPA profile. Well, leave it toSierra Nevadato jump on that train! Their Ruthless Rye is a delight for hop lovers, and citrusy summer beer lovers. You’ll recognize this one by the rustic label that features a picture of a woman in a field with a staff. I’m not sure if she’s there to harvest the rye or blight the land with black magic. If it’s the former, I get it. If it’s the latter, then she’s freakin’ hot! Anyway, this delightful brew soaks the palate with a pleasing array of hops covering all the bases, and doing it well, blending with the natural crispness of the rye. It might be another case of a Spring beer being released in January, but you won’t hear me complain.

Revival Double Black IPA

AKA Cascadian Dark Ale, which makes it sound like it comes from another planet, like Seti Alpha Acid 5. Yes, I’m a nerd, deal with it. In true Sean Larkin fashion, this brew is a real accomplishment. It’s already on tap at most of the usual spots for good beer, which is why I’m amazed I haven’t heard of it before. I’d heard Sean Larkin was starting his own microbrew, but you can’ get a true feeling of how epic this is until you try this beer. It’s got a great creamy head (insert joke here,) and you can almost taste the grains themselves beneath the incredible hop signature that blends pine and very slight hint of citrus. It’s sweet and hoppy and absolutely unbeatable. It’s got a kind of boxing theme to the label. But being a nerd, I don’t get it. But, being a beer nerd, you can rest assured that if I recommend something, it’s one freaking good beer. It’s also 8%, so don’t do as I did, and have one right after drinking a cup of coffee unless you like heading to the men’s room every 10 minutes.

NewportStorm

Cyclone Series Sabrina

I was sworn to secrecy about this one when I tried the prototype brews, but now that it’s out, I can talk about it! This one is a Belgian Pale Ale, and you’ll pick up on that by the very first sip. It’s got the taste of a classic Belgian ale from the malts, with a distinct, but subtle hop flavor that one would associate with a pale ale. There’s a nice wheatiness to it that, again, is very good for Springtime weather, which we seem to be getting in fits and starts. While I did like some of the first draughts better, (get it?) I’ve still got nothing to complain about.




Spring In The Air?

Spring is one of my favorite times of year, when we all can begin to enjoy more sunshine, warmer temperatures, and the slow emergence of the wild Beer Critic from his cave of solitude.

However, seeing as how it’s still winter, that’s not going to happen for a while. My cave is warm, comfortable, and has WiFi. So why in the Beer Gods name would I venture out into the cold, rainy, mid-January mess?

The Sam Adams Spring Seasonal is out? What the dong? It seems a little early, but hey, I can roll with it. I love the Noble Pils. It’s a little chilly for it, but Hell, it’s been a fairly mild winter and I’m always up for a good pilsner. Let me just go fetch… Wait, this isn’t the Noble Pils. Alpine Spring? What the fudge? Where did this come from?

 

Samuel Adams No-, erm, Alpine Spring?

Apparently the Boston Beer Company has changed their lineup again. While the Noble Pils might not be the Spring Seasonal anymore, it is now going to be a part of their regular lineup, increasing the already eye-watering number of beers they produce even further into the double digits. And I like the Noble Pils. Most pilsners suffer from cheap ingredients and watered down hop flavor because American Beer companies made sure that everyone hated flavor and began leeching it from beer post-prohibition. Not this one. This pilsner’s got just the right hop tang and medium body that refreshes and satisfies, oh hell, I’m sounding like a beer commercial.

Let’s move on, shall we? The Alpine Spring is billed as “a bright citrusy unfiltered lager,” which worries me. Ever since the Summer Ale changed from being a light citrusy beer to a heavy lemony beer, I’ve been a little skeptical. But what the hey, let’s give this one a whirl.

After getting some crispness and a hint of lemon on the first sip, and a gentle hop finish, three beers come to mind simultaneously: The original Summer Ale, Noble Pils, and the White Ale. It’s like they decided to combine all three into a new beer and let it bottle condition.

It’s actually quite nice, though I’d see this more as a summer beer than a spring one. A spring beer I picture as something like a bock or a dark wheat. Maybe even a good red ale. It’s got a little body to it, but not too much to make it overfilling, and the citrus neither overpowers nor fades. The hops mingle well with the wheaty-citrusy taste and once again, I swear this is their other three beers mixed together. I bet if I could get my hands on a Noble Pils, a White Ale, and the original Summer Ale I could simulate this beer with a little experimentation. Again, I’m not saying it’s bad. I rather like it, and I can see myself knocking back a six-pack on a warm spring afternoon.

 

Nectar Ales Hemp Ale

AKA the Humboldt brown, and I’ve resisted trying this brew because of the various drug tests I have to take due to an incident involving a new beer bar, an angry badger and22 poundsof Jell-O dumped into a hot tub. My attorney advises I not talk about it.

Anyway, this beer’s an odd duck. It’s got a refreshing IPA like quality about it that, to my surprise, seems to work with a very, um, hemp-like flavor, I guess. It is, in fact, brewed with hemp, but I can’t imagine it’s very much or very potent, since the FDA is pretty strict about pot. Unless a drug as a dozen side effects, the FDA doesn’t seem to care very much, and if it does, then let’s slap a sticker on it! Anyway, the beer itself is sort of a mid-to-dark India Pale Ale type of brew that I can see knocking back in the warmer weather, so given how the current Winter is going, probably next Tuesday.