Pure: The Essential 4

The reinheitsgebot purity law has been deemphasized of late because of the expansion of breweries has also expanded experimentation, where unusual ingredients are employed to create unique flavor profiles. Thus, you have beers brewed with all kind of things: from green tea, to Wheaties, to the juice of blood oranges. This is of course, all very interesting, but this does not change the fact that brewing the Bavarian way, can produce some spectacular, time-tested results.

Take for example The Hudepohl Pure Lager Beer. The Hudepohl Brewery’s latest example from their pure beer seriesHUDEPOHL-20150814-PURE-LAGER . This is kind of a local update to the series which began with their Amber LagerHudepohl0511 Which now is being brewed in Cincinnati, rather than contract brewed in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, or La Crosse, Wi. Being brewed locally embraces the rich German brewing heritage of the city. A culture nearly destroyed after World War One, when a nationalistic phobia demonized all things German, including former President Theodore Roosevelt, who called for the banning of the German language, from being taught in schools. Combine this with the intolerance of the Temperance crowd, who demanded prohibition and got it.

It has been a struggle to restore our local brewing heritage which Christian Moerlein, Hudepohl, Samuel Adams, Reingeist, Mad Tree, and Rivertown  among others, are bringing about.

The Hudepohl Pure Lager Beer has dialed back a bit of the amber colour to produce a more golden pour. And what a pour it is! I am sure part of my perception was due to this being a very fresh sample, but after tasting this, I would say that this is a local reinheitsgebot masterpiece. A delicious, beautiful, easy drinking beer.

The opposite of fresh, there is the vintage 2014 Avery Twenty OneTwenty-One-Anniversary-226x300 An anniversary edition, imperial India style brown ale. Even after a year and five months in the bottle, this reinheitsgebot ale is a cascading dark pour that forms a meringue-like head of foam that stays rocky and thick throughout. This brown ale reveals the sustaining power of Amarillo and Simcoe hops in a vintage setting. The dark malts employed give this a profile that I first experienced many years ago, when the now defunct New Amsterdam Brewery introduced what they called IDA, or India Dark Ale. Twenty One is one of those rare American beers, where the essential four ingredients perform their combined alchemy: peppery, spicy, licorice-anise like etc. It is for me, certainly worth seeking out. A peaceful liquid tribute for expanding my global brewing consciousness.

I finally was able to experience Saranac Legacy IPAsaranacelegacyipa A golden pour with obvious quality foam. This is an expertly made American IPA, where emphasis is placed on subtle flavor variations, rather than over-the-top extreme bitterness. A historical recipe that reveals F.X. Matt’s significance as a regional family owned brewery, still going strong in its third century.Their Saranac Octoberfestsaranacoctoberfest Is a bright copper-colored pour, with an inviting malty nose. A solid take of the marzen Munich style, with Saphir and Perle hops proving support for the 2-Row and Crystal malts.
This is Octoberfest is spelled with a c because Francis Xavier Matt wanted only English to be spoken at the brewery. This was a case of assimilation: a new language in a new land.
Their Dark-tober(fest)DarktoberfestGerman style lager appeals to this beer drinker because I favor beer with a malt emphasis. A dark pour that has the rich malt flavors I welcome, with outstanding body. What else needs to be said? Munich, Caramunich, Pilsner, and Dark Munich malts are supported by Magnum, and Hallertau Mittelfrum hops.

Then, finally, there is Weihenstephaner Festbierweihenstephaner-festbier-2 It will come as a bit of a shock to those who think German beer is either amber or dark. This very light golden pour with a botanical nose, comes from the world’s oldest brewery. Here is where the reinheitsgebot quality is in full swing. Especially because the Weihenstephaner house yeast provides a mysterious transformation to the Bavarian malts and hops.

More Autumn Adventures

When it comes to the market selection of beer, the casual consumer, as Norman Miller has pointed out, can very easily be overwhelmed by the new varieties that appear on a weekly basis. But of course that is also the best part of being the beer doctor, and after 20 years of professional study, I am simply amazed by how the subject of beer has evolved, in all its myriad forms.
One thing is now obvious to me. Pumpkin beer, like Oktoberfest and Harvest Ale, has become a permanent part of the fall season portfolio, despite those beer tasters who loath it. A quick perusal of the selection available in grocery stores reveals, even to non-beer seekers, that there is an obvious market for this style of beer.

New Belgium Pumpkick Alepumpkick  is a good example of the Fort Collins brewery’s inventive originality. A bronze-gold coloured pour, with an unfamiliar nose to an unfamiliar palate, where the usual spices associated with pumpkin ale, are given a tart twist through the use of cranberry juice. A Halloween beer to be sure.

Oktoberfest season of course is in full swing and it was a pleasure to sample this year’s Abita OktoberfestlOctoberfestBottle The Louisiana brewery’s take on Marzen is an excellent example of the many variations possible. Here Munich and Crystal malts are given hop (and dry hop) support from Hallertau hops, providing a nut-like profile that has a touch of anise in the semi-dry finish.

From an early contributor of the North Carolina artisan brewing renaissance, there is Highland Brewing Clawhammer Oktoberfest Lagerclawhammer A thoroughly delicious take on the style. Roasted malts given full hop support make this an easy drinking beer. At 5%abv, this Clawhammer (named after the mountain found in western North Carolina) is enjoyable from start to finish.

After reviewing Schlafly Pumpkin Ale recently, I have now had a chance to sample Schlafly TIPAlTIPABottle a special release in time for fall. This is a golden rocky headed pour, with a very subtle nose.
The use of Galaxy and Topaz hops from Australia give this IPA a unique profile. A very mellow approach that does not reveal its 7.2% strength. In other words: there is nothing boozy about this, The two hops combined with a single pale malt, using an American ale yeast make this a rather nectar-like presentation.

Blessed Fest and other Autumn Adventures

Despite outbreaks of extreme hop insanity, the Marzen style also known as Fest beer, abides. For those who think the lupulin of hops is their main reason to consume beer, their aversion to the malty approach of Fest beer reveals a one dimensional outlook that remarkably almost denies the history of brewing. Face the fact that without malt, there is no beer.

Oktoberfest has many manifestations. This year, the Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, which I have already written about, with its use of traditional Steffi barley, caused me to celebrate Fest beers, with a newly found appreciation. Putting aside the judgmental frame-of-mind, I find these Oktoberfest beers to be wonderful variations on a timeless beautiful theme.

Take for example Left Hand Oktoberfestleft-hand-oktoberfest-e1346369480368-200x200 A dark copper-amber colored pour with plenty of malty depth. It is also superbly balanced with a biscuit profile complimented by precise hop support. An outstanding pleasurable drink.

For those who think only microbreweries are capable of making good marzen, it would be wise to check out Yuengling Oktoberfest1_118442126_3  A quite good example of Fest bier from America’s oldest brewery. A clean malty profile has nothing out of place. This year’s production is one of my favorites.

Here in Cincinnati, home of the largest Oktoberfest in the United States, we have several very good examples. Hudepohl Oktoberfest BierHUDEPOHL_OKT_6pk_renderIf you Google up Hudepohl Oktoberfest, you mostly see reviews of when the beer was contract brewed by the The Lion Brewery in Pennsylvania. But now it is brewed right here in Cincinnati and it is even better. This dark amber marzen style, is straight forward and unpretentious.
This also of course is where Samuel Adams Octoberfestoctoberfest is produced (please note the earlier label), the world’s best-selling Fest beer, and quite understandably. As I noted in 2009: “this big bright malty recipe is so in tune with the end of summer that I can not think of autumn without it. This is one of my favorite beers, period.”
Locally there is the great Christian Moerlein Fifth & Vine Oktoberfest38285 Hudepohl’s big brother, emphasizing the location of the world’s largest chicken dance.
Then there is the can of Franz, from Rhinegeist Brewery, another fine example of why this blessed recipe style is in the soul of Cincinnati. The exclusive use of of Munich and Vienna malts give this recipe character, with an inviting aromatic nose.

Moving north in the state of Ohio, there is the mighty Great Lakes Oktoberfestgreat-lakes-updates-oktoberfest-packaging-L-l0OeuZ A time-honored take on marzen-style lager that quite simply, speaks for itself. In Akron,the same can be said of Brew Kettle Oktofestbrewkettleok where the malts, by the very nature of this recipe style, do all the talking.

This year, I thought I was not going to sample pumpkin beers. This was due to the fact that I was disappointed when my beloved Saranac Pumpkin Ale seemed compromised last year. How do I know this? Well the abv of this beer was 5.1%, while in previous years it was 5.4%. I asked about this on line, but I never got an answer from F.X. Matt Brewery. Perhaps the change in alcohol strength meant a slight reduction in the use of Maris Otter malt? Anyway, I was surprisingly disappointed, and what made it worse, my friend Sam at Winner’s Market had gone to the trouble of getting it in stock for me.
Thankfully, I overcame my pumpkin beer aversion, in order to experience Samuel Adams Pumpkin Batch. A lovely golden pour. A saison style take on pumpkin ale that uses its Belgian yeast strain quite effectively. A marvelously complex palate presentation that reveals that artisan thought went into this recipe’s creation, and not just slamming spices into an ordinary ale. With its long dry finish, it reveals itself to be a pleasurable, sophisticated drink.
Then there is Schlafly Pumpkin Aleschlafly  from The Saint Louis Brewery. This ale has literally, a pumpkin pie nose! This big time pumpkin ale is a bit of a departure from Southern Tier’s Pumking, with its candy corn profile. Here, this autumn wassail goes deep with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, making this a bit of a shocker, but nonetheless a very interesting recipe. Unless you do not like the taste of pumpkin pie. In that case, don’t even think about it.

The Good and The Rare

So much is written about American IPA. A kind of Polonius mentality has seized this market segment of artisan brewing: This above all: to thine own hops be true!… which in the American way of doing things, casts aside the historical significance of the India Pale Ale style, created for the colonial British in occupied India.

It is sometimes said that original IPA began with Hodgson’s October Ale,a barley-wine style that was heavily hopped, in order for it to survive the arduous half-year journey by ship to the Far East. This historical account is a jumble at best. But one thing is certain. IPA was created by market necessity and no single brewer or brewery can claim its invention.

Perhaps Vico’s theory of cyclical history has proven itself, in the case of American market necessity. For in the world of craft beer, hop bombs are found everywhere.

Take Brew Free! Or Die IPAbrew free 21st Amendment Brewery, a “west coast style with attitude”. Served at lager temperature, this is one cold bitter beer. Warming up a bit, I noticed the lupulin effect (along with 7% abv) was softened somewhat by a malt base of support, keeping the recipe from becoming too dry.

The state of Ohio has many examples of American IPA. Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster IPAlakeeriemonstetr Is a smooth 9% double or imperial take that develops the citrus-bitterness in a sophisticated way.

Locally, there was Mad Tree Brewing’s Rounding Third Red IPArounding third   A tribute to professional baseball, there is a huge aromatic release of hops when cracking open a 12 ounce can. This has the obsession with hop freshness that the younger beer generation seems to love. It is beautifully balanced because it retains the complimentary support of malts. Very well done, unpretentious and direct.

I also tasted (alas) an old bottle of Victory’s Moving Parts Batch No. 2 beer_265794 The Dowingtown, Pennsylvania brewer’s take on a traditional British IPA, using English malts and hops, it has the apple aspect in the flavor notes that make it an unmistakable homage to original IPA.

The emphasis on hops is also found in American Pale Ale. Rhinegeist Brewery’s GlowB9318177001Z.1_20150722111448_000_GADBDU8TH.1-0 Is a tribute to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Lumenocity concerts in Washington Park, in front of Music Hall. Rhinegeist’s special pale ale is brewed with a single hop, the German Hull Melon, giving this summer ale a focused complexity, where the fairly dry finish has a subtle melon- strawberry flavor, due to the use of this extraordinary hop.

Leaving the hop emphasis, the arrival of Oktoberfest beers puts me back in the malty universe I truly love, This year’s Sierra Nevada OktoberfestOktoberfest3_Bottle6-pk-withBottle Is a one time only collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, Germany. A beautiful reminder that Fest Bier goes back centuries. A golden colored Oktoberfest with delicious balance where the aromatics of the hops combine with the traditional German malts to produce a sublimely tasty beer: honey nut–like if you will.

Which brings me lastly to Vitusbeer_70791 Bayerische Weihenstephaner’s Weizenbock, from the world’s oldest brewery. A brew of unbelievable depth, this is a showcase for the flavor complexity of the weizenbock style. The yeast alone reveals the magic of the 1516 Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) with layer after layer of flavor notes. Outstanding from start to finish. A prime example of the difference between good beer and great beer, which even today, is rarely found.

The Meaning Of Beer

As someone who has been writing about beer for a very long time, it is suffice to say I have sampled thousands of different beers. How strange it seems now, that at one time, my enthusiasm for this beloved ancient beverage made me appear as the odd duck out, when brews like Miller Lite and Bud Light were the rage of my peers. And this was before Corona became the yuppie lager du jour, at $25 a case at the time. So I am not all that surprised when I read pronouncements that IPA Is Here To Stay, as if it, or any other trend, decides what is relevant to an individual’s palate.

I must admit that the snob aspect of the craft beert movement becomes tiresome and distasteful. Those who are fortunate to have sufficient income that they do not mind plucking down $10 to $20 for a six pack, or a 22 ounce bomber (a description quite accurate, when it comes to something like Stone Double Bastard Ale). But some of those same folks become quite dismissive of the millions of beer drinkers who are not interested in participating in their consumerist tribalism.

This has also lead to being dismissive of some great beers because a particular style does not meet the requirements of the latest trend. Take Samuel Adams Boston LagerSamual-Adams-Boston-LagerA world class example of the Vienna amber style that is often written off by not being hoppy enough. How bloodty silly is that?

It is amusing that some beer writers justify their enthusiasm by pointing out that sales of craft beer (oh that term again) are increasing; as if market share determines the validity of these upscale products. But isn’t that the same concern of those evil big corporate brewers? A recent example comes to mind:
An article about the Molson Canadian Beer Fridge, which uses Google speech recognition software to translate the phrase I am Canadian in forty different languages, in order for the fridge to open. A marketing scheme for the upcoming Pan Amereican games that the writer Darrell Etherington, adds his own bit of snark:

“Of course, this is an unabashed marketing ploy from tip to toe, but it’s a well executed one, and I find myself swelling with patriotic feels despite myself… Molson Canadian is still terrible beer, however.”

Etherington’s opinion that Molsdon Canadian is terrible beer, is simply that. I prefer what David Kenning said in Beers Of The World, that Molson “served cold, its taste is crisp, modern and extremely refreshing.”

Another Shout If You Please

Moving towards the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the season of summer brew is in full sswing. Take for example Twilight Summer Ale from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OregonTwilight-Lable. This is a rather lively, bottle conditioned ale. It reveals that a brewery started over 25 years ago, knows something about the use of hops that many hop-slaming upstarts do not seem to grasp. The careful use of Northern Brewer, Cascade,Tettnang. and most importantly, Amarillo hops, make this a very pleasant tasting experience. Well balanced with the malts, the hops selection collaborates in a refreshing dry finish.
Drink this fresh as possible, the bottle conditioning is for keeping the delicious flavor intact, not designed for cellaring.

One of the more unsual contributions to this season is Southern Tier Brewing’s Compassind_bp_compass A spring into summer seasonal, Compass is a 9% ale that uses rose hips in the brew kettle and is bottle conditioned. I was given this undecanted, so brewers yeast was floating about. No matter. Despite its so-called very big bitterness, I found this tasty and elegant, with nothing boozy in the palate. Listed as a sparkling ale, I was reminded slightly of Thos. Cooper & Sons Sparkling Ale from Australia. Unusual, but quite good.

Searching Kentucky Common and Other Adventures

The geography of beer production has always captured my attention. So it was quite a moment for me to visit the new brewery which has opened in my own neighborhood of Northside (also long ago known as Helltown) in what was once the St. Patrick Church and School, built in 1873. I will not trouble the dear reader with all of the history I have with this place, accept to say I was delighted to see this ancient part of local history rededicated as a brewing site.

It was also a joy to see that the Urban Artifact Brewery is also the Wednsday night home for The Blue Wisp Big Band, the large ensemble of the closed Blue Wisp Jazz Club.

What brought me to the Urban Artifact that Wednesday, was that I was hoping to try their take on a long lost style style of ale that was very popular in Louisville, Kentucky before prohibition. Made with usually 30% corn, it was first mentioned in the American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Associated Trades in 1902, and was said to be the drink of the “labouring classes”.
Well, the short of it was, they did not have any. The opening batch produced sold out and I was told by Scott Hunter, chief of strategic development, that they hoped to have a new supply by August.

Since I was already there, I decided to try what was available. An exotic sampler to be sure, that included the pre-reinheitsgetbot style of Gose which uses corriander and salt, a Berliner Weisse style (and yes there were flavoring syrups available) and a brown ale, also in coffee and nitro versions.

Sampling some of these beers, I was reminded of what seems a countless number of small brewery tap rooms, where beer is the focus above all. In this case, the obscure exoticism of these styles seemed somewhat startling, in a city that was built on Hudepohl. I joked to the very amiable Scott Hunter that I thought about growing hops in my backyard beer garden, which I could sell to Urban Artifact. Wishful, blissful, dreaming yes, but my how the geography of beer has become local. I told Mr. Hunter of a famous cafe in Northside, where at one time the only beer they sold was made locally. Only local, as they use to say at the bar, only local.

Just another WordPress.com weblog


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 443 other followers