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Recent Tastings

The return of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2018 in six packs was a welcome sight,sn2018the annual season return of this classic seems much more appropriate than those 4 packs, which gave this tremendous ale an unnecessary precious pretension. The great American original version of a barleywine-style ale. The late great writer Michael Jackson described it best:

“Bigfoot captures the imagination, and its character is as big as the name implies, with a huge hoppiness in its aroma, a chewy palate, and a great depth of flavor.”

Brooklyn Bel Air Sour Alepaertytart is somewhat a surprise from a brewery famous for modern interpretations of classic styles. Bel Air Sour Ale is a tart generous offering where a carbonated grapefruit palate develops over the initial shock to the palate, which proves to be quite refreshing. The fruit-like complexity of this beer is achieved through the ester magic combination of American 2-row, Pale Wheat, and Carafoam malts, combined with Amarillo and Simcoe hops, and their proprietary strain of Lctobacillus. No fruit juice here. This is a very well made beer.

308813 After last year’s disastrous pilsner, I was not sure about sampling their Solid Gold Premium Lager. Brewed with corn, this low in alcohol lager is lower in price than other so-called craft offerings. But to be honest, I would rather have a Pabst Blue Ribbon or Hamm’s than this beer.

As a fan of many Great Lakes Brewing Company I was disappointed with Cloud Cutter Alecloudcut It’s not that it is bad. It is simply a style approach I do not care for. 40 IBU for an American wheat ale? No thank you.

origchrismoern Christian Moerlein’s Orginal Lager predates the infamous craft beer revolution. It was the first American beer to be certified reinheitsgebot back when Germany was known as West Germany. A delicious Vienna lager, this beer is worth drinking today. The only thing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is learning that Christian Moerlein is an official beer for FC Cincinnati. I understand the reason for this, a sales rep told me about the sales volume during a FC Cincinnati home game. So that serves Christian Moelein’s bottom line, but it does not erase the fact that the ultra-wealthy Carl Lindner III and associated minions. are seeking public funds to fortify their neoliberal dream of making Cincinnati  a major league soccer town. Considering all the other critical needs for this city, I find this concern selfish and repulsive. For that reason, I will cease to purchase anymore Christian Moerlein products. I live here and I pay property taxes and know when I’m being run over.
The Beer Doctor


Clearing The Deck

One of the advantages/disadvantages of being the Beer Doctor is that I am exposed to brewing industry information from all over the world. Unfortunately this has led to the discovery that the brotherhood of brewers suffer from the avaricious designs of egotistical owners, unscrupulous marketeers and leveraging hedge fund managers. This exposes the good beer/bad beer mythology promoted by dubious non-profit organizations like the Brewers Association who support independent craft operations. But this designation becomes as cloudy as the recently classified brewing style of New England IPA. In their zeal to demonize macro (big) brewing, many of these companies engaged in this marketing war have a very loose definition of what their beloved word craft actually means.
Then there is the ultimate greed factor to consider, where now complaints are lodged about beer not costing enough. In the world of reality, this is, as might be said, beyond the pale.
So now we have Dogfish Head creator Sam Calagione, worried about the “slippery slope” precedent of Founders Solid Gold Premium Lager selling for $19 a case. This will never do for mister Sam, a long time advocate for super high end pricing, where Dogfish Head sells for $52 a case.
This is rich for mister Sam, who markets his brand as the super high end hipster model (complete with vinyl record collection). Never mind the assumed neoliberal order which looks down upon those not economically fortunate to afford their $10 plus releases. Since I do not live in the United States of Amnesia. I do recall Dogfish’s tribute to malt liquor back in 2004, where the high end pricing concept was applied to that urban style of beer, producing a 40 ounce, twist off cap called Liquor de Malt, complete with its own brown paper bag, for $7 a bottle.
When distributors balked at the racist implications, mister Sam replied: “I told them it was their loss and if they tried the beer they would see that we nailed the style and customers would love it.”
The real question here is: what customers is he talking about? Even as a poor person I made the effort to purchase Dogfish Head beers over the years and liked a couple of them (their Witt, and their Miles Davis Stout). But reading Calagione’s revolting pontifications, I have decided to hell with Dogfish Head. I do not want to give my money to a monetized idiot who once famously said that reinheitsgebot was a censorship law. Clear the deck, life is too short to endorse idiocy, no matter how successful it appears to be.
The Beer Doctor


SAM ’76 Does Not Have Clothes

The latest release from the Boston Beer Company is a demographically driven creation, designed to appeal to that ever so important younger generation of fickle drinkers, who can’t decide whether to drink beer, wine or hard liquor.
The beer producers are worried, after seeing the data that beer consumption is in decline. This has led to hard ciders, boozed up seltzer water, and not your Father’s soda pops, along with a new hipper advertising push from the liquor industry itself. SAM ’76 makes a marketing appeal by being packaged in a Ball corporation aluminum can. There is also the Brewer’s Association of Independent Craft symbol, which is suppose to remind you that their form of capitalism is actually virtuous.
sam76canOffers up to the consumer a consummate a neoliberal product where patriotism is offered up in all of its free market glory with Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But there is only one problem with all of this, and that is, this is a terrible recipe beer. It is not refreshing, it is not revolutionary, but simply a boring , slightly hoppy beer that is not worth the $10 a six pack bother.
Always purchasing the beers I sample, I found this swill to leave a bitter taste in my mouth, after all the years of praising their many beers. This one I can not buy, but unfortunately, I did.
The Beer Doctor

Homespun For The Holidays

Okay when you are 62 years old you can have plenty to complain about. It would be so easy for someone like myself to assume a cranky old geezer act. Like Grandpa on  The Simpsons, recalling a time when a turkey was referred to as a walking bird. Some senior complaints have substance, but there is also a large section of nostalgic remembrances that are inaccurate and bitter. As my late father use to say: there never was a better time. This certainly is true in the world of beer, where despite my complaints about wretched IPA, there has never a wider variety of beer than this 2017 Holiday season.

Then there are beer writers who complain about beers that taste like cookies. Taft Brewing’s Santa’s BribeTAH_homepage_features_Santa3
would not be their cup of cheer. A very dark brown pour with a malty invitation in the nose. This is a delightful Christmas wassail, where a dark dry chocolate palate is delicately primed with spicy undertones. The humor of the graphic on the can is a nice touch. Old Saint Taft is depicted making a yuletide toast, from his reindeer powered bathtub.

It is good to see doppelbock’s return to winter festivities. Warped Wing Brewery of Dayton, Ohio has brought forth The Abominator,warpedwingdoppel an old school German style doppelbock, that is uncompromisingly delicious.

If something lighter and golden in color is what you are looking for, you might want to sample Victory Brewery’s Winter CheersvictorycheerA weizen base golden pour that lends itself to a citrus profile that finishes somewhat tart. Positive proof once again that brewers have different ideas as to what constitutes Holiday beer.

My relationship with Flying Dog’s K-9k-9goes all the way back to the last century, when Flying Dog brewed their beers in Colorado. After all these years, with a new Ralph Steadman drawing on the bottle, this is still a very interesting production. There was a time when K-9 was somewhat boozy with a cherry flavor note. Now, the 2017 version is malty smooth and strong. What else can ask of a Winter Warmer Wassail?

It is a joyous sight for me to see the return of Shiner Holiday Cheershinercheer A dunkelweizen brewed with peaches and pecans. Opening a bottle to release the aromatics is a festive occasion alone. You should know the drill by now: every drop of Shiner is brewed in Shiner. Give a bottle to someone you love.
The Beer Doctor

Concerning 1933 Repeal

The stubby bottle release of Budweiser 1933 Repeal Reserve Amber Lager comes with a bit of confusion. No, this is not the Bud made available in March 22, 1933, when President FDR signed the Cullen-Harrison Act that authorized the sale of 3.2% beer in the United States. Rather, this 1933 Repeal is a re-creation of a pre-prohibition recipe created by Adolphus Busch, before his death in 1913.

amber pre pro

For those who have been conditioned to think that the name Budweiser is an evil word and nothing produced by them is worth considering: Think again. Perhaps the historical significance of this beer would be easier to understand, if you looked at Maureen Ogle’s book, Ambitious Brew: the story of American beer. This Reserve Amber Lager captures the American imagination with a substantially malty, delicious beer.

stubbyThe marketing war over what is craft, and what is not, continues unabated. But, as always, it is the recipe that captures the conscience of the Beer Doctor. I pity the folks who are so caught up in their neoliberal vision of business righteousness, that they can not see that the owners of the brewing industry, whether it is Ken Grossman, Jim Koch, Larry Bell, Dick Yuengling, or Carlos Brito, all share one thing in common. Their job is still sell more of their beers.
It is almost somewhat ridiculous to blame  the brewing industry troubles on Anheuser-Busch InBev alone. Their world famous Budweiser has seen a 5% drop in US sales. In fact, despite massive spending on professional sports advertising, both Bud and Bud Light have seen a decline in demand that continues. Does that mean the introduction of 1933 Repeal will turn this corporate sized ship around? Probably not.
The marketing of this new brand has not reached Bud fans very much. In conversations at grocery stores and beer caves, I asked folks who buy Bud on a regular basis if they had heard anything about this new beer? The vast majority did not, even when I pointed out it had been advertised during the World Series. The blank looks I received from shop owners for my inquiries, was similar to when I asked, for months, whether anyone had Leinenkugel’s 150th Anniversary Lager. It seems that a macro specialty beer is a mysterious production, that sometimes even the sales rep knows very little about.
I began to wonder what demographic is 1933 aimed at? The loyal Bud drinker, the kind who drink their Bud with ice, will probably resist the robust flavor found here in 6.1% strength. The famous craft beer crowd who object to anyone questioning their good versus evil narrative, will not touch this beer. So who is left? Just about everyone with an open mind. All I can say is that Budweiser 1933 Repeal Reserve Lager is a great recipe. Proof that a Macro Brewery can produce a great tasting beer that everyone can enjoy.
The Beer Doctor

Homeless For The Holidays

There was a time when people held on to the quaint notion that the marketing of the holidays was performed within a limited window of opportunity. Thus, you had complaints about Christmas decorations being put on display before Halloween was concluded. But in this neoliberal age of on-line smart phone shopping, that is so 20th century.
The same principle applies to the release of winter/holiday beers. It used to be the short window approach, but now, it is best to sample these beers as soon as you obtain them. In other words: the fresher the better.
This certainly applies to Great Lakes Christmas AleglcThe state of Ohio’s favorite wassail, the Christmas Ale recipe speaks for itself. Certainly the beer fans of Ohio have spoken. That is why you find stacks of this ale, often in convenience stores. The unbeatable combination of spices and honey make this a much anticipated annual treat. The fresher the better.

When it comes to American wassail, the grandfather of the style is of course, Anchor’s “Our Special Ale” 43rd edition43edThis the first Anchor Christmas Ale since the brewery was acquired by Sapporo Holdings. This is my 27th sampling of this legendary ale, where the recipe changes from year to year. Often in the last twenty years there was a touch of what has been described as a spruce essence. But this year that signature has all but disappeared, along with the associated aromatics. Instead is a deep malty presentation accentuated with unnamed spices. This produces a semi-dry dark chocolate palate that is the strongest edition to date at 6.7%. Malty from start to finish, with subtle complexity , and despite all legacy implications (or the lack thereof) this is a very enjoyable Holiday ale.

bellxmas There is that old overused saying that if it’s not broke don’t fix it! This certainly applies to Bell’s Brewery Christmas Ale. A Scotch ale, this is a classic wee heavy take on holiday festivities. To be clear, this is a beer I love to drink.

Then there is from Marshall, Michigandarkhorsexmas Dark Horse Brewing’s 4ELF ale, a winter warmer spiced ale, where cinnamon and cloves are combined with malts to create a palate that produces an impression of vanilla, swimming in a sea of dark chocolate. Despite the enthusiastic complexity, this is a surprisingly drinkable ale.

Christmas Ale party 2017 square It has been 2 years since Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the Breckenridge Brewery. Besides being banished to the Craft Brewers Association of outer darkness, the real question is: has the recipe of their Christmas Ale changed? A famous Scotch ale take for the holiday, the recipe seems unchanged and delicious. The only difference is the corporate streamlined label and packaging, which is graphically colder than their original presentation.

jubelaleThe 30th Anniversary of Deschutes Brewery Jubelale reveals that this recipe has stood the test of time. A five malt, five hop, creation that is spicy without the use of spices. Even the IBU rating of 65 is somewhat misleading. This is not some over hopped bitter bomb IPA, rather, it is a masterful example of American winter ale.

index A spiced dunkelweizen bock or as it is said on the carton: wheat bock with spices. I would not be surprised that many people in the beer world have forgotten that Samuel Adams Winter Lager has been made annually for 28 years. Not that there haven’t been a few tweaks over the years ( I still recall the first time they employed Saigon cinnamon) but this tried and true recipe I have always loved. I wish the Christmas Bock tradition would return because bock is my very favorite style of beer.
Love and peace, and that’s not so funny in these tumultuous times.
The Beer Doctor

The Recipe Is Always The Thing

The first criteria of a seeker of tasty beer should always be: does the beer taste good or not? I was recently standing in line at my go-to beer store and a gentleman, who was I think, somewhere near my ancient age, was waiting to purchase a six pack of Yuengling Light. I remarked to him that of all the light beers I have tried in the United States, Yuengling Light has the most flavor. He agreed but then he told me he had political problems with purchasing his beer.
“Oh you mean Dick Yuengling?” I said, “Forget about that,” I instructed, “There are plenty of billionaire bastards who operate breweries, that should not stop you from enjoying their beers.”
Using political criteria to judge the flavor (or lack) of a beer is downright silly. Incorporating that dodge of neoliberal altruism to proclaim a brewery’s beer is superior to those mass produced products of the macro brewing world is a dubious assumption at best.
Take the Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout200thSt. James Gate’s historic tribute to the first Guinness exported to the United States in 1817. It is first and foremost a tribute to black patent malt, that marvelous invention of Daniel Wheeler, who devised an iron cylinder to roast malt in a coffee roaster fashion, where a small amount of malt could darken a large amount of beer. The use of black patent malt and Golding hops gives the drinker an idea of what Guinness Porter tasted like 200 years ago. It certainly was delicious, in a time before golden lager was even part of the beer equation.

It also seemed historic when I poured Great Lakes Ohio City Oatmeal Stout into a Samuel Smith’s glass.ohiocityAfter all, it was the old brewery in Tadcaster, England who revived this classic style. Great Lakes does a fine job of balancing the wholesome goodness of their production, reviving the Anglo-Irish concept that very flavorful beer need not be over the top in alcohol.

Unchained from the nonsense of the group mind think, I pursue what I have always done: to discover good tasting beer. I do not concern myself with anything but the recipe. I purchase my beer and decide whether it is a beer I like or not. I can not speak for anybody else.