Category Archives: American beer

Concerning Taft’s Brewing Company

September 15 of this year will be the 160th birthday of the Cincinnati born, 27th President of the United States, who also became the 10th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Taft’s Ale House, located in Over-The-Rhine, became a popular brew pub before it branched out as Taft’s Brewing Company, located at 4831 Spring Grove, (which is not all that far from my house), and that concerns me here:18382309_1881393515453989_2480501474962964480_n Having arrived at my local shop, I decided to investigate all three. From left to right, first there is Nellie’s Caribbean-Style Ale, a delicious lime juice infused beer with coriander, named after Big Bill’s beloved wife, Helen Herron’s nickname.
Then there is Gavel Banger American IPA, a 7% lupulin war chief tribute to the Chief Justice. My least favorite of the three, but that is just because I have grown weary, after tasting so many India Pale Ales, that I do not care much for this style of beer. Nonetheless, Taft’s version is straight forward and very well done.
And then there is 27 LAGER, a very tasty gold coloured beer in the Dortmunder/Export style. At 5.3% it is a slammer with substance, at the end of a dry day.

Building a beer portfolio around a locally famous historic figure requires some poetic license Tafts-Ale-House First off the use of the bathtub, referring to Big Bill (all 350 lbs.) getting stuck in the White House tub, is simply not true. But he did have a very large bath tub fabricated, a porcelain production that weighed, literally, a ton.
Something else to note: William Howard Taft was the last US president to have facial hair. Everyone since in that office has been clean shaved, no matter if they have to razor twice a day.
Did William Howard Taft drink beer? No he did not. But his thoughts on Prohibition were abundantly clear:

“I am opposed to national prohibition. I am opposed to it because I think it is a mixing of the national Government in a matter which should be one of local settlement.”

I’ll drink to that,
Cheers!
The Beer Doctor

The Confusion of Truth

Face it, most of the major brewing companies have become in essence, beverage manufacturers. So it is not all that surprising that many of the new beers offered are essentially fruit infused concoctions.sidecar A phenomena that extends across many brewing styles, from IPA to Stout to Helles to Porter: Reinheitsgebot be damned! For someone like myself, who loves the purity of recipe and tradition, this is indeed a sorry state of affairs, partially brought on by the unrelenting demand of the capitalist system to always sell more product, whatever that product is.
samjuice It would come as a bit of a shock for those who still buy into the illusion of craftiness to discover that the concerns at a board meeting of Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, or Anheuser-Busch InBev have very much in common when it comes to the sales of their products. Add to that the Big Board demands of the stock market,  and it is not difficult to grasp that much of the essential aspects of brewing culture, will be surrendered in the name of increased sales. At this point marketing becomes a holy essential, which is why Boston Beer was deeply disappointed  by the failure of Samuel Adams Hopscape to move as an early seasonal, which I reviewed as a pleasant wheat ale but did not tickle the flying fickle finger of fate of the consumer. Then there is the latest seasonal:Samuel-Adams-Fresh-As-Helles-960x533
Where to begin with this? It is a pleasant enough drinking experience if you enjoy having a natural flavour orange in the finish. But I fail to grasp the utility of the graphic design. Skull with orange slice eye sockets?  What looks like honey dripping down from the top of the skull? Surely, hasn’t that skeleton concept been overly used, from Rogue Dead Guy to Heavy Seas? Then there is the declarative on the carton that seems somewhat disingenuous from a company concerned with Angry Orchard cider, Coney Island hard soft drinks, and alcoholic seltzer water:

Samuel Adams was a bold & determined rebel. He masterminded the Boston Tea Party and was among the first patriots to call for American independence. He united our country in rebellion against the British Empire in pursuit of the American dream. Oh, and he was also a brewer. We proudly named our beer after this hero.

The “Oh, and he was also a brewer” seems to me to encompass the cynical attitude so prevalent these days. Never mind that the billionaire titans of the beverage industry will use patriotic gimmicks to sell more product until the numbers drop. Now repeat after me: I do believe in craft beer, I do, I do, I do!

A Text Driven Dinosaur

As a note on this website I recently received a comment from magic plus white cream that suggested that this blog is good, but could benefit from great graphics or videos to give the text more “pop”. As magic plus white cream put it: “Your content is excellent”  but with the addition of more graphics and video clips , beerdoctor’s website “could undeniably be one of the most beneficial in the niche.”
Well first and foremost, for better or worse, I am a writer, and one of the most important objectives in creating this archive, is to encourage others to increase their reading. Which I hope, in my own tiny way, is being accomplished here at beerdoctor.wordpress.com., where images are sometimes used to assist the text, for encyclopedic or geographic purpose. In other words: the text is the thing. A small gift to the unknown reader.

Of The Braxton Brewing Company

The Braxton Brewing Company is a Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati contribution to the local brewing scene. Canning their recipes in Covington Kentucky. the first one I sampled turned out to be a personal favorite: storm2x-220x300 which I was somewhat surprised to see it referred to as “A traditional American lawnmower beer”. The lawnmower designation has been around for decades in places like All About Beer magazine, which I never particularly agreed with, even back in the last century. The Cream Ale style is a North American hybrid invention that deserves more respect  (Does anyone remember Cinci Cream Lager? or does anyone want the handsome waiter?) Nevertheless, Storm Golden Cream Ale is an absolutely delicious beer.
Then there is the collaboration of Braxton with Graeter’s ice cream. Graeter’s has been given divine approval from no less than Oprah Winfrey, giving the brand a glowing national endorsement. Whether or not this justifies the high prices of their products, is best left to the consumer to decide. As to the milk stout brewed by Braxton, staying true to its super premium pedigree: 267496 the price of this beer in Ohio, with tax included, comes to $2.66 for a twelve ounce can. This milk stout,  a type of ale brewed with lactose sugar, has plenty of black raspberry flavor all across the palate. The chocolate chip presence seems quite dark, especially combined with the black raspberry. Not overtly sweet, it hides its alcohol strength well, at 7% abv. As a milk stout this is quite a departure from the classic Mackeson’s XXX Stout, that alas, has been absorbed by the Anheuser-Borg InBev portfolio, where resistance is futile.
Then there is Dead Blow Tropical Stout 161540 A very dark brown pour (almost black) with a red undertone visible in bright light, with a subtly rich nose.
Brewed with macerated dates, this is an interesting take on tropical stout. What is tropical stout? This is a style of stout that originated, or was created for, in Asia. The Lion from Sri Lanka is probably the most famous example, considered by many to be the benchmark of the style. Dead Blow has a distinctive smoothness and a finish I would say, can be attributed to the yeast strain utilized at Braxton. A very tasty departure from a style of stout first brewed in places like old Ceylon.

Concerning Dick

No, this is not about the penis or erectile dysfunction. This is about the recent uproar concerning Richard L. “Dick” Yuengling support for Donald Trump. It seems that certain Hillary supporters  are outraged that the Yuengling brewery owner would, as one disgruntled drinker said, “actually support that monster”. Which is hilarious when you have any knowledge of the political concerns of America’s oldest family owned brewery.

Dick Yuengling’s concerns jibe quite well with his fellow billionaire’s vision of an America where organized labor and even the EPA, should not even exist. The $10 million fine levied against the Pennsylvania brewer for discharging industrial wastewater into the Schuylkill river for 8 years, was, in the Dick way of looking at things, a perfect example of unneccessary  government interference. So were the $6.6 million in back taxes owed to Philadelphia in 2013. Unfair, Dick protested, he didn’t want to enable Philadelphia’s inefficiency.
The same could be said of the Yuengling family efforts to have decertification of the Teamsters union at their Pottsville facilities. Unless the union was shown the door, Dick threatened to move the entire operation to a right to work state. Employees quickly became conscious that their jobs were on the line, and obliged the brewing padrone’s wishes.

The reason I found the recent outrage rather comical, is because there is nothing particularly new about hard nose brewery owners’ political views. Take the late Joseph Coors, supporter of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, whose his own brother William described as having politics that were “little bit right of Attila the hun”. The Joseph who at one point donated $65,000 to buy a light cargo plane for the Contras, during what could be described as the troubles in Nicaragua.
Or consider the  Anheuser-Busch family of companies support for The Partnership For A Drug Free America. The conclusion was quite clear: Bud that you drink is good! Bud that you smoke is bad!

Craft Has Become A Meaningless Word

First a review:  roundhouserenderRed Ale has a long history in the artisan brewing movement. Red beer was a favorite during the last decade of the 20th century. Now days, most red ale productions involve the hoppy concerns of India Pale Ale. So it is not surprising that Bell’s Roundhouse is referred to as an India Red Ale.
Roundhouse has all the modern concerns for tropical fruit notes, in this case, enhanced by the use of honey. Luckily there are enough malts present to keep this drinkable, with a dry hop finish. But to be honest, despite the robust growth in the IPA category, I find this approach to be downright boring. I have tried so many American India Pale Ales and they range from what could be called lupulin warrior concoctions, to what the ever so ambitious folks in marketing distribution call approachable IPA.
According to the folks who keep tabs on sales, the IPA category has quadrupled in the last 4 years.This is an over $800 million concern that makes up 75 percent of the so-called craft beer segment, with fruit and citrus forward IPAs leading the charge. Personally I find this a rather dismal comment on the state of artisan brewing in the United States. None more so than this:sidecar-can-180x300Sierra Nevada’s latest attempt to catch that audience for tropical fruit beer. This time (to be released in January 2017) a pale ale brewed with oranges. This supposedly is to kick up the west coast style of pale ale a bit. There is also on their schedule tropical-torpedo-300x289 giving their famous Torpedo IPA a tropical twist.

This is all fine and dandy if you like drinking this stuff all the time, but I have become weary of spending money on this style anymore, and because of its marketing dominance, there is not much else coming out. A brewing example of Gresham’s Law, where tried and true recipes have been abandoned, in the name of more market share. Nobody seems to know when enough is enough.
How strange after all those talks about what is craft beer and what is not, it really all comes down to market share. Independent breweries do not have the economic muscle of the Mega-Macro Breweries, but their desire to increase sales remains the same. I am afraid that the humble nobility of beer has become quite lost, in all this idiotic market-driven bullshit.

A Review of The Brewer’s Tale

Although there are less than 250 pages of text in William Bostwick’s The Brewer’s Tale, A history of the world according to beer, it is quite remarkable how many undiscovered facts are found in this book. It might be considered somewhat of a hybrid between the writings of Charlie Papazian and the late Alan Eames, in its focus to make sense of the world’s oldest beverage. But what sets Mr. Bostwick’s report apart from other encyclopedic reporting, is that he is also a home brewer, which gives his understanding of the subject a humility arrived at through his personal recipe experimentations that often involves subsequent failure, to achieve the desired results. As a beer writer of 20 years, I understand its one thing to write about beer, but quite another to create the product you are writing about. William Bostwick bridges that divide.
The Brewer’s Tale is very extensive covering the many facets of brewing production. From artisan startups to global behemoths, Bostwick makes it quite clear that brewing beer, whatever the size of production, is first and foremost a business, and it has been this way for many centuries. But also, as a home brewer, he has witnessed the poetic alchemy of its creation. Which gives this book a very readable, poetic center.
For myself, he touches my home base with his discussion of Maris Otter barley, a winter-harvested malt that is a personal favorite. First developed in 1966, its use vanished in the last decade of the 20th century, only to be revived in 2002 (to my Brooklyn Winter Ale delight).
Bostwick is also kind to point out that the great Fuller’s London Pride use of Maris Otter is one of the reasons it is so admired. The book also strikes a balance between tradition and modernity, quoting a brewmaster at Fuller’s, John Keeling, who said: “some people think that the best way is the traditional way. No. Making consistent beer is about making small adjustments”.
But those adjustments, in the case of mega brewing can be quite life changing. As Bostwick discovered after meeting hop farmer John Segal Jr., when his Yakima valley farm lost its contract to produce Willamettes for Anheuser Busch, after it became A-B INBEV.
William Bostwick does an admirable job covering the history of hops, pointing out that East Kent Goldings in British ale, are “the spring-green jewel in pale ale’s crown”. Coverage of that mother of American invention, pumpkin ale, is given proper historical context, with the home brewer working on a batch of his own. (With that in mind, I wonder if Mr. Bostwick has sampled Schlafly Pumpkin Ale? An outstanding recipe that uses Polish Marynka hops.)
The Brewer’s Tale recognizes greatness in beer, mentioning Westvleteren XII and Affligem’s “equally stellar beer” brewed by Heineken, which caused me to recall Affligem Pater’s Vat Christmas AleAffligem-PatersVat-75cl_1 a holiday treat produced 18 years ago, when dry-hoping in Belgium brewing was quite rare.
In fact, Bostwick’s The Brewer’s Tale is often a reconteur delight in explaining the industrialization of porter, the use of the Sierra Nevada torpedo, along with the archaeological ramifications of ancient culture from Sumeria and nearly everywhere else. There is an optimism in this report that obliterates both snobbery and bland cynicism that all beer is the same. A kind of testament I found on the August Schell website. where America’s second oldest family own brewery states: WE Repeatedly Introduce New Beer Varieties Under The Simple Truth: The World Can Never Have enough beer.
That is why I have always said there is no such thing as too much beer. The brewers Know it is a continuous work in progress.

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.