Category Archives: Christian Moerlein

The Two Kinds Of Beer

It was John Keeling of Fuller’s Brewery who said it best:

“To me there is only two kinds of beer. Beers I like and beers I don’t.”

Which sums up how I feel about the brewing industry after many decades of research. All those marketing terms about craft and can craft and all the double talk about beers being inferior because of adjunct grains, and then remarkably become outstanding when a hip brewery makes a stab at a Mexican lager.
Then of course there is the ridiculously stupid statement from Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione who said rheinheitsgebot was a centuries old art censorship law. No Mr. Sam, it was a food purity law where pork scraps were not considered to be worthy of beer production. But all of that concern for pure ingredients is behind us now, in the globalist tradition where Goose Island products can be purchased on the continent of Australia.

As far as I know, no one calls London’s Fuller’s Brewery a craft brewery, but the 172 year old brewery makes some of the finest brew in the world, in my ancient opinion. Their ESB, London Pride and 1845, I hold in highest regard. These are venerable go to beers… if you are lucky enough to find them.

When Alaska Finally came around.alaska alt

For nearly a decade, the only contact I had with the Alaska Brewing Company in Juneau Alaska was being on their e-mail list where I read of merchandise and new productions to their portfolio. For quite awhile Alaska Brewing beers were only available on parts of the west coast. So like a thirsty beer gorilla I look through the bars of my logistical cage, wondering what their rauchbier Smoked Porter actually tasted like. Then recently I saw a reasonably priced 12 pack of their Amber Alt Ale ($16, tax included) which was and is a can beer I have been waiting for. Unlike many flagship ambers, that are usually variations on Vienna lager, Alaska Amber is the old ale style usually associated with the Westphalia region of Germany. Top fermented at a cooler temperature, the recipe is an adaptation from The Douglas City Brewing Company of over 100 years ago, when thirsty miners needed a beer with substance.

One of the best local beers is marketed as a baseball season novelty.

I can not express how much I have enjoyed the Braxton Brewery’s 1957 All Star Ale1957-Can-300x270Their wonderful take on an English mild. A limited specialty release, which is sad, because this is a great recipe that I would love to see brewed throughout the year. The baseball marketing with the Crosley field cracker jack analogy simply gets in the way.

Now to a beer I do not care for. pacer
Christian Moerlein Pacer Pale Ale is a Citra dry hopped ale designed to accentuate the fruit characteristic of this hop. It is well done, but as John Keeling reminded me, it is a beer I have no desire to drink again.
Again thank you, from an ancient taster.
The Beer Doctor

HELLTOWN: THAT’S WHERE THE BEER DOCTOR LIVES

Cincinnati has developed a brewing culture in the last 20 years that would have seemed impossible previously.  Prohibition, combined with the anti-German propaganda of World War I wiped out the vibrant brewing culture that existed  in that area of town known as Over-The-Rhine. A neighborhood that even today is being resurrected from its notorious reputation as an impoverished, crime ridden slum.
How bad was it? I had musician friend from New York City who in the early 1980’s took a bus ride up Vine street to see O-T-R and told me that as far as scary neighborhoods went, Over-The-Rhine was as scary as any blighted area in New York.
It was a low time. The original Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company was having difficulties staying afloat with Miller Lite, Budweiser and Coors claiming most of the attention at grocery stores, bars and ballparks. Beers that were not a part of the adjunct grain lager profile were few and far between.
It is difficult for beer enthusiasts who  came of age when Samuel Adams is readily available that there was a time when the term beer seeker meant exactly that: travel  and obsessive trouble, to locate those often rare, flavorful exceptions.
It is still somewhat difficult to grasp that 30 years later, in 2014, the choices for beer selection have never been better. It is possible today to enjoy many fine beers brewed locally that meet world class criteria.

A wonderful brown ale surprise comes from the Madtree Brewing Co. on Kennedy Ave. The Great Pumpcan indexis one of the best pumpkin ales I have encountered in awhile. Although Southern Tier’s PUMKING is held in high regard, compared to Madtree’s Pumpcan, it seems like a strong candy corn concoction. Madtree like my beloved Saranac keeps the ale emphasis in the recipe. Since there are no recipe style parameters, each brewer has a free hand to interpret this new world creation. In the case of Madtree, The Great Pumpcan it  is a delicious Halloween wassail.

Another very tasty surprise is Christian Moerlein HELLTOWN RYE-OT . An American brown ale brewed with rye malt and dedicated to my own neighborhood of Northside, known for its artistic diversity. It was, back in the 19th century, known as Helltown, notorious for its exuberant night lifebeer_191640

Yes indeed, that’s where The Beer Doctor lives!

A Great Local Beer For This Season

First, a full disclaimer: I am in no way connected to the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company. I have never visited their famous Lager House, located in downtown Cincinnati. My only connection to their operation was a couple of tweets I sent to the owner, Greg Hardman, which I received no response. Which is for the best, because my impressions of their beer portfolio is based solely on trying them, which was always the path of discovery, 20 or more years ago. Such is the time honored path of the beer seeker.

The revival of the Moerlein brand coincided with the revival of local beloved brands: Hudy 14-K, Hudy Delight, Burger, and Schoenling Little Kings. This revival included going back to their original recipe formula, before those local breweries ceased operation. From there new beers were added: Moerlein OTR ale, Emancipation Bock, Sangerfest maibock, Christkindl christmas bier, and recently Exposition Vienna Amber Lager.
All of these are flavorful examples of a brewing company seeking to restore Cincinnati’s brewing heritage (Fifth & Vine Oktoberfest). But the line of beer I enjoy the most, is the Hudepohl pure beer series, that is ofcourse, beers made only with the four classic ingredients: malts, hops, yeast and water.
The first to arrive a couple of years back was Hudepohl Amber Lager, a no-nonsense flagship brand, reasonably priced and quite good. Then came the seasonal offerings, a Hudepohl Festive Bock for spring. Then, as of this year, a summertime Hudepohl Summer Pils. A Hudepohl Oktoberfest Bier for the fall. And now for winter, what is proably their finest offering, Hudepohl Classic Porter.

This porter is deeply rooted in the American brewing experience. A bottom fermented (or lager), it takes its inspiration not from the famous Baltic porters such as Okocim, but rather from the Pennsylvania porters associated with the roots of United States beer making. Yuengling Porter is a good example. But a reinheitsgebot pure recipe was a difficult luxury to achieve in those times. New World inventiveness lead to pumpkin ale and many other adjuncts such as birch and spruce, along with assorted spices. But the love of porter goes back to the colonies. So it wasn’t all that surprising that porter continued into a bottom fermented format, using both corn and rice.
But here is where Hudepohl Classic Porter proves to be truly remarkable. This pure beer recipe brings together the friendly drinkable style in a delicious malty showcase. A lager for the season to be sure. In fact, of the many winter seasonal offerings, this one is near the top of the list. Perhaps I was seeking a winter lager without any spices added. This certainly fulfils that. What a remarkably great local beer.

Because It Tastes Good

I recently started doing my own version of customer research by asking people purchasing beer why they chose their particular brands. The answer, time and again?  Because It Tastes Good.
Mind you, the vast majority of folks who purchase and drink beer of all types, care precious little about what the folks at whatever beer geek club have to say about the beer they love to drink, and rightfully so. As beer writer Norman Miller has pointed out, just because you do not care for a particular beer does not mean that somebody else should not. Thousands of bottles and cans go flying off the shelves of retail stores, not because of television advertising or celebrity endorsements, but simply because people like to drink them.
I know that is hard for some to understand. Especially for those who upon discovering the artisan approach to brewing, think they have discovered the secrets of the universe. Also known as beer snobbery, this is something I am familiar with. A state of mind found along the road of beer discovery, that eventually I had to dismiss. To quote the Gospel according to Bob (Dylan): “But ah I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” 

Which also helps to explain there is nothing really out of place when I observe someone buying some Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA along with a 12 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Or of a lady who informed me that she buys Yuengling’s Lord Chesterfield Ale, because “it hits all the right taste spots”. Which is all good, because beer, is above all about freedom. Which I take that to mean having respect for other peoples choices.

Which leads me to offer a finalist for this year’s U.S. beer of the year. Geographically speaking, this would have to be Christian Moerlein Exposition Lager, an outstanding malt generous example of the Vienna Amber Lager style, which is a Beer Doctor personal favourite tradition. That of course, is just my preference. If you do not like malt-forward styles of beer, this may not be for you. But variety can be the saviour of us all. Cheers!

In the world of beer each new year brings surprises. A good example is the Christian Moerlein Saengerfest Maibock which appeared at the end of spring, beautifully balanced with a generous, juicy malty palate with a floral note in the finish. As described in my original notes as “one of the best American beers sampled this year”.  But my perception is  biased perhaps, because I truly love bock beers, including the golden coloured ones, with a hint of honey-nectar in the nose.

The same can be said of Oktoberfest. Funny how matters sometimes work out. Only a week ago, minus a day, the temperature reached 100 degrees and people complained that it was too hot to be drinking Marzen. This was before a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico caused the season to turn in the Ohio Valley, and only 2 days later, I was out in the backyard drinking Samuel Adams Octoberfest with temperatures in the upper 50’s.

Some folks have complained about Oktoberfest beers appearing too early. Taste wise, this is sometimes true. When Samuel Adams version comes out at the beginning of August, it does not have the malty depth that it has now. Sampling a 22 ounce bottle each week of that month, it was fascinating to notice its development: from a very bright Nouveau creation where hops are in the forefront, to the malty depth and goodness found post-Labor Day, where the five malts have their say, as it were. As they say in cosmological physics: gravity has the final word.

The release of Hudepohl Oktoberfest Bier is joyous event for me, here in southwestern Ohio. It also compliments their Moerlein Fith &Vine Oktoberfest, which is also a tribute to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. In fact much of this is a Cincinnati story. The revival of the Hudepohl name is a tribute to this city’s beer baron past. This version of Marzen, I do believe would make Ludwig Hudepohl II proud.

Guinness Black Lager: The beer experts continue to weigh in on this. Some go to great lengths to describe the appearance of the pour, totally ignoring the instructions from Guinness that this beer is designed to be served cold and consumed straight from the bottle. Which I did, and found it to be an alternative to Bud, Miller and Coors, very drinkable with moderate alcohol strength. Which is perhaps what Guinness is aiming at: a decent beer for the football-tailgating crowd. The question has arisen whether Guinness Black Lager reflects the character of the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. I would have to say yes. It will be interesting to see whether this first bottom fermented Guinness actually sells.

That Is A Wrap

In 2010, when it came to holiday beer, the year’s end was stocked full of releases. I wish I could have got around to more. What was once, two decades ago, a rarefied exotic search, is now almost inexhaustible with possibilities. The great brands, the so-called stuff of legends has become the order of the day. The American editions alone are enough to occupy your time; including the releases from other countries… well as they say, that completely tears it.

With the arrival of the new year, I look back at 2010 and remember the many fine efforts put forward by a variety of brewers, offering new takes on many categories. I could go in to that, but that’s not my job this time. My job is to name, what was for the beer doctor, the beer of the year. That honor belongs to: HUDEPOHL AMBER LAGER. Here is why.
“The market is ready for a full bodied, full flavored lager,” said Greg Hardman, head of Christain Moerlein Brewing, which also owns the Hudepohl-Schoenling brands. And what a lager they came up with! A viable, modestly priced alternative to all the cereal cooked soups called American lager. A flavorful drinking beer where its beauty is found in its direct honest simplicity, by adhering to the use of only the classic ingredients, and not through some souped-up advertising.
Enough said. Let this first post of the New Year be short and sweet.
Happy New Year To All
Thank You
The Beer Doctor

The Long March Of Marzen

Actually, despite the melodrama of this title, it would be better to call this the long leisurely stroll down Oktoberfest lane. Of course in most cases, Oktoberfest beer refers to Marzen, that often amber coloured, malty brew that appears each fall, not only in Munich, Germany, but nearly everywhere else, since numerous breweries create their own versions of the style.
When I was younger and more foolish, I use to think What is the best Oktoberfest beer? But after many years I discovered  such judgmental analysis is a waste of time, because  Oktoberfest, in all of its variations, is a beer of love kind of thing.
Left Hand Brewing Oktoberfest was one of the earliest to appear this year. A smooth malty traditional that is a bit stronger than usual (6.6%abv), but completely focused.
Dundee Oktoberfest is Rochester, New York’s take, a densely malted recipe that puts emphasis on the orange-citrus notes and reminding me that malt is good for the soul.
Point Oktoberfest from Wisconsin, has an approach a bit brighter, but still very traditional. Another nudge to the fact that beer is food to be enjoyed with other food.
Heavy Seas Marzen from Clipper City Brewing in Baltimore, is a year-round available tribute to the style, once called “MazHon”  that is malty smooth with a long gentle finish.
Leinenkugel Oktoberfest, from the craft beer division of Molson Coors, is a deliciously doughy version, expertly balanced with four specialty hops. Munich, Pale and Caramel malts give this recipe finesse.
Bells Octoberfest is lighter coloured (almost pale lager) version of the Fall classic. A pleasant reminder that not all the beer featured in Munich is deep amber in colour. This reminds me of the Lowenbrau recipe. A 5.5% quaff-able to be sure. Good from start to finish.
Saranac Oktoberfest is a tribute to German heritage. Like much of what is made at Matt Brewing, this beer is expertly done, achieving a marvelous balance between malts and hops.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest is the one most Americans will notice, due to its national visibility. And what a recipe it is! Over many years this recipe has been refined, so that it achieves sophisticated balance, which is a remarkable achievement considering the scale of production.
Moerlein Fifth & Vine Oktoberfest is a great Cincinnati take on Marzen, although it is not (as yet) produced here. A copper coloured beauty that is simply a pleasure to consume.
There are so many more, and as this season unfolds I will attempt to try as many as possible.
Hey, it is a job, but somebody has to do it.
Thank You.
The Beer Doctor