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

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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.

A Zest For Fest

With the onslaught of the American style IPA, which used as it’s base, the English creation originally designed to withstand the rigors of a long ocean shipment by using extensive amount of hops. But now in the USA, American IPA uses much higher amounts of hops, kicked up to notches unknown, as Emeril Lagasse might say. I have completely lost my appreciation for that kind of approach. So much so, that even annual favorites such as Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, I will not purchase this year. Partly because I was recently given a can of Lord Hobo’s Galaxy IPA, and after sampling that, I seriously question whether I will ever drink IPA again.

So it is really no surprise that my taste for marzen and associated Fest lagers, now begins at the beginning of August, and extends all the way to November.great-lakes-updates-oktoberfest-packaging-L-l0OeuZ Of Oktoberfest beers brewed in Ohio, Great Lakes Oktoberfest is a personal favorite. One of the stronger versions (6.5%) it has a malty depth combined with a delicious balance of hop support.

westsixWest Sixth Brewing of Lexington, Kentucky produces a straight forward Fest bier  with their Dankechain Oktoberfest, where Hallertauer hops and Munich and Caramel malts keep this focused on a very tasty malt presentation.

okfuelBraxton Brewing of Covington, Kentucky makes what is known as Oktober Fuel, which is a fine example of adhering to traditional methods, producing a (6%) malt showcase that is substantial and very very good.

150 Leinenkugel’s 150th Anniversary Lager: After seeking to try this beer for quite some time, I finally obtained 3 bottles in the Leinenkugel Explorer 12 Pack. Strange it seems that the Miller owned Leinenkugel brewery does not share my enthusiasm for this collaborative effort with the Hofbrau Munich. Perhaps the younger generation does not fully appreciate the historical significance of this very tasty Fest bier, where German malts are combined with American hops, making this an outstanding, memorable, 2017 creation.

Samuel_Adams_Octoberfest2Brewed in Cincinnati, Ohio, Samuel Adams Octoberfest remains the classic it has always been. The slightly sweet doughy balance, I return to annually. Please do not let the market snark fool you. This is a great beer.

franz Rhinegeist Franz is a very pleasant edition to the festivities. My only complaint is: Why do,t they put these cans in a 12 pack?

Marzen, your grain is tasty.
Best wishes,
The Beer Doctor

Oktober Surprise In September

Two recent productions from New Belgium Brewing captured my attention:

index For those who do not care for pumpkin brewed beers, read no further. To be sure, my relationship with pumpkin ale goes way back: to Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale from California, to Brooklyn’s Post Road Ale in Utica, New York where Saranac Pumpkin Ale is also produced.
Locally there were magnificent versions from Samuel Adams. Then from St. Louis, there is Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, ridiculed by the anti-pumpkin sensibility, I found this to be a strong pumpkin ale that was a bit of a revelation, especially because I rarely consume pumpkin pie.
New Belgium Atomic Pumpkin Ale is the first I sampled in 2017, and it is a magical marvelous recipe. Here the pumpkin is used with cinnamon and habanero peppers, which gives this ale a very tasty profile, with pleasant heat in the finish. Quite good.

belgian white I think the late Pierre Celis would approve of New Belgium’s take on Belgian white. Fat Tire Belgian White far exceeds the mediocrity of Blue Moon of Molson-Coors fame.
The precise use of Seville orange zest combined with fresh coriander, make this one delicious drinking experience. One of the best beers available now in the United States, and I’m not kidding.
Cheers and peace.
The Beer Doctor

The Very Long Trail Of Beer Adventures

Editor’s note: The never ending search for good tasting beer goes way back. In my case, the quest to find flavorful beer goes all the way back to the second half of the 1970’s (at least legally) when domestic beer was essentially lager brewed with rice and/or corn, which in the case of Schlitz, the disastrous use of anti-foaming agents made Budweiser the king of American beers.
In those days, with the delightful exception of spring American bock, flavorful beer was found in imported beer, although obtaining fresh examples from Europe was dubious at best.

Carlsberg then and now

Carlsberg brewery which often gets pooh-poohed from the beer expert crowd. Is now doing collaborative with Brooklyn Brewery. Long before its recognition as a global futbol brand 1960s-advert-magazine-advertisement-dated-1968-advertising-carlsberg-f0ey8y Carlsberg had a special place in American beer history, with its introduction of beer_712Carlsberg Elephant malt liquor (as it was called, addressing taxation concerns) was an early example of strong beer, although by today’s standard of strength, would be considered somewhat mild. But in those days, most beer was weak and watery. The Elephant, as it was commonly referred to, was in a class by itself. It was a beer my lost friend TA said he would serve to Hunter S. Thompson.

Before It was called fresh hop IPA

sierra_nevada_celebration_ale Sierra Nevada beers were rare anywhere east of the Mississippi river. When Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale first appeared in the Midwest, there was no reference of it being an IPA. It was just an extraordinary tasting ale. This was before hops became marketing drudgery.

Great tasting beer existed before anyone had the idea of saying the word “craft”

augbockThe fabulous recipe from Huber Brewing in Monroe, Wisconsin was a prime example of the Augsburger brand and their commitment to the German bock tradition. Education was sparse, to say the least, concerning beer in those days, with many folks still believing that bock was created by cleaning out the vats. Augsburger countered this misinformation by printing up a bock marker explaining the Einbeck roots of the style, placed inside each six pack.

Imported, no Transported to Another World

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I recall my friend Gary, who in those days was strictly a Bud man, preferring the can to the bottle. He had a nice deli sandwich he was about to eat and he poured the weissbier into a ceramic mug. He took a healthy quaff and developed a new found expression on his face. One I had never seen before: a moment of surprised delight. Can one beer experience change your reality? Well all I can say that Gary, the hard working Bud man, 10 years later was ordering for Christmas, a half barrel of August Schell Cherry Bock, their holiday Blizzard/Snow Storm recipe that year.
Prost!

One Time Only

When everything in the beer world seems out of sync, often with questionable nonsense being offered as the latest examples of superior beer, I only have to turn to Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest collaborations to remind me that are still breweries, as Carol Stoudt once famously said, that still remember and respect “the integrity of the beer”.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2017 is the latest German collaborative brew, this time with Brauhaus Miltenberger, known as Faust Miltenberger in Germany, but because the Faust brand is a trademark owned by AB-I it is not allowed in this context. So be it, this Oktoberfest 2017 is a malt forward recipe that is wonderfully complex and simultaneously quite drinkable oktoberfest2017bottlepint using the finest German malts and hops. this is yet another outstanding example of Sierra Nevada collaboration project success. This from a very large family owned brewery, “owned, operated and argued over” now producing beer on west and east sides of the country.

But the true magic of these collaborative efforts is that each of these Oktoberfests are one time only. Enjoy this great 2017 Oktoberfest while it is available.
Cheers!
The Beer Doctor

Goodbye To All Of This

A recent event has caused me to reevaluate whether or not I should continue this blog. But before I get to this, I would like to thank all the people who have helped me in my educational path in the world of beer. Most of these encounters occurred long ago, but that does not mean I have forgotten their contributions. This was back in a time of magical beer thinking and writing, when there was actual poetry in describing the world’s great beers. That was before the technologically driven market place raised the concept of American exceptionalism to the point that the latest upstart breweries are bold in their marketing chutzpah:

WE DON’T BREW BEER FOR THE MASSES. INSTEAD, OUR BEERS ARE CRAFTED FOR A CHOSEN FEW, A SMALL CADRE OF RENEGADES AND REBELS WHO ENJOY BEER THAT PUSHES THE LIMITS OF WHAT IS COMMONLY ACCEPTED AS TASTE. IN SHORT. WE BREW FOR PEOPLE LIKE US. FOUNDERS. BREWED FOR US.

Well I do not know about you dear reader, but I certainly do not consider myself a part of that small cadre of the chosen few, although I have enjoyed Founders Dirty Bastard Ale, but after sampling their absolutely wretched PC Pils index a beer that actually made me ill. The first day I tried 1 bottle after a long hot day working outside. About 10 minutes later felt nauseous, so I thought maybe it’s heat exhaustion so I went to bed with an upset stomach, and thought nothing else about it.
The next day, same scenario, but with only a have day outside and an early morning breakfast, and the exact same thing happened. I was forced to throw out the rest of the six-pack and as a poor person (according to Founders, that must mean I am one of those “masses” that they do not brew for) that $10 plus tax does not sit well with me. But as the Beer Doctor, I always assumed that buying bad beer, or simply beers I do not like, was part of the material costs of the continuing project. But the arrogance associated with this horrible brew, went beyond all decency for me.
Calling this beer American hopped pilsner is a cruel joke for someone seeking the comfort of the malt forward style accentuated by floral hops. This is just an India Pale Lager of the worst kind. It made me wonder if perhaps those bold American hops of Chinook. Cascade. and Centennial where sprayed with pesticides? All I really know is this beer made me sick.

For those who have grown up learning about beer from the Internet, most of the information posted on web sites such as Beer Advocate or Rate Beer are basically useless, because there is an entire cadre of beer fans who offer their opinions with no idea of what they are talking about. Back that up with belligerent bullshit from the aggressive new breweries on the block, and you have a rising mountain of disinformation, which makes you believe that the latest US barrel aged sour is better than Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Then of course there is that neoliberal wet dream known as the Brewers Association, who seem to evolve along the lines of the Democratic National Committee. First, by expanding how many millions of barrels of beer you are allowed to brew and still be designated with that most holy term of craft. Then there is the thought police aspect of this virtuous group who have decided to clean up their industry of what they deem to be offensive labels. This prompted Flying Dog Brewery to say, thanks but no thanks, and bye bye.
The recent BA decision to produce an independently brewed designation on labels, it is said to be designed to differentiate from Big Brewer takeover of craft brewed brands. Well, this seems like pissing into the wind, because after all, those masses are not part of their audience anyway, that is mostly white, affluent and exceptionally American. How else to explain why Dogfish Head takes pride in the fact that their beers sell for over $50 a case?

Beer at one time was the drink of the common people. Who were the common people? Those who were not a part of the Ownership Class. The people who had to have session beer so they could continue their long shifts in armament factories in England in World War I. Beer provided respite from the often brutal ordeals of everyday living. In that sense, big beer productions is still doing that ihamms but is often overlooked by the racist snobbery of those in the industry who think it would be fun to make a faux tribute to malt liquor. To be sure, I lived under that delusional nonsense that tells me I should be concerned about where my precious money goes. In other words: who are the cool millionaires?
Globalism is not just for shoes and clothing. Beer is right there in the mix. Ask the people in the continent of Australia how they feel about AB-I taking over Carlton United ownership? How does Cooper & Sons play into all of this?

Here in the United States, we have the altruistic craft breweries, who do the neoliberal right thing  of donating to charities they deem worthy, or creating projects such as teaching incarcerated women how to repair bicycles.
The spirit of inventiveness abounds. I have a brewer in my own neighborhood who is creating an ale that mimics a famous local dill pickle.
Oh lord get me out of here! Goodbye to all of this.

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