Beer Club: The Ales of March

Yes, my beer pun abilities have declined considerably. I have no idea what I’m going to do for April. Anyway, this month’s beer club convened at an English style pub called The Whip Tavern. We’re enjoying a freakishly large rainstorm right now, but I suppose that’s part of the British experience, right? The pub is kinda in the middle of nowhere, but a few of us were able to brave the storm and the flooded roads to attend, and we were rewarded with some wonderful beer.

  • 21st Amendment Fireside Chat: A winter seasonal at the end of its run, this one was a dark brownish color with a hint of red and about a finger of head. Aroma was sweet with a hint of caramel or maybe toffee. Taste was similar – very sweet (again with the caramel or toffee) and doughy with a twang of something spicy in the finish. A relatively strong beer, the alcohol was present, but subtle. A pretty full body and warming mouthfeel as well. I don’t know what the Beer Advocate geeks are smoking though, as this is certainly not a C+. More like a B or even a B+. Perhaps the fact that I was having it on tap made a difference (apparently this is typically seen in cans). (Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% on tap. Drank out of a wine glass.)
  • Twin Lakes Tweeds Tavern Stout: The uber-local Twin Lakes brewery doesn’t even bottle or can their beers – they’re only available on tap. This one was an extremely basic stout. Dark brown in color, with hints of amber when held to the light. Roasted aromas in the nose, with a very basic stout-style taste. Roasted malts, slightly bitter finish. An enjoyable beer, but also probably an example of what I’m not a big fan of in a stout. Plenty of carbonation and a medium body, just not a whole lot to go around in terms of flavor. Again, not a bad beer, but certainly not a great one either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Yards Extra Special Ale (on Cask): Again! Since this was an English style pub, I was really hoping for a cask conditioned beer… and it turns out that what they had was the same one I had last weekend. When we first got there, the waitress said they had Victory Yakima Glory on cask, which I immediately jumped on, but apparently it kicked right before we arrived. Dammit. I still ordered a half-pint of the ESA, and it was quite enjoyable (again!) though perhaps not quite as good as it was at the brewery. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on cask, drank from a half-pint glass)
  • Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer: This being an English pub with a wide variety of imported beers, I figured I should actually avail myself of such an opportunity. After consulting the menu (and beer advocate on my phone), I settled on this beer. On the bottle, it says it’s aged for 77 days in oak barrels (which seems kinda short to me, but what do I know?)

    Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer

    I was a little worried about the fact that this came out in a clear colored bottle (most beer bottles are brown because they protect against light, which can damage beer and cause off flavors), but it was ultimately pretty enjoyable. It’s a clear, golden colored beer with an ample white head. Aroma seemed kinda funky, maybe even a bit tart. Taste was sweet with an almost white wine tint to it (just a hint of tartness there), which seemed strange. Perhaps it did get hit by some light on its journey to America. Well regardless of whether or not it was intentional, it tasted interesting to me. Again, I’m not terribly well versed in oak aging of beers, but there was a good amount of complexity in the taste. Light to medium bodied, not a lot of carbonation, but just enough to make it go down easy. Again, a very interesting beer. It was actually quite expensive, so I’m not sure it was worth it, but at the same time, I’m glad I got to try it. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a half-pint glass.)

  • Tetley’s English Ale: Not a cask ale, but it was so smooth and creamy that it kinda felt like one. Unfortunately, that’s just about all it had going for it. It had a rather bland taste, kinda like a toned-down Yards ESA. On the one hand, it’s not something I’m going to go out of my way for, but on the other hand, it’s certainly not bad and I could probably drink these all day without getting too bloated or drunk. At 3.6% ABV, it’s not exactly a monster, but I can see why the British are into their session beers (i.e. this is something you could drink all day and not get too sloshed on). The name Tetley reminds me of tea, and I almost even detected a flavor of tea in the beer, but I’m pretty sure they have nothing to do with each other (was I imagining things then?) I’ll give it a C+, which is fine for what it is. (Beer Nerd Details: 3.6% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)

I was very disappointed by the lack of Victory Yakima Glory on cask, and I also attempted to order a bottle of Brewdog Punk IPA, but alas, they were out of it. Nevertheless, great times were had by all, and I ordered me some Bangers and Mash which turned out to be quite fantastic. There was also quite the delicious toffee cake desert thing that went quite well with the Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer. I look forward to our triumphant return to the Whip (probably sometime this summer).

Adventures in Brewing – Part 3: The Tasting

This is actually quite long overdue. I’ve already drank (or given away) more than a full case of my first attempt at homebrewing: an English Brown Ale. The general consensus is that it’s pretty good! Or it’s at least good enough that my friends don’t feel the need to insult me. As for my own feelings, I think it was a fine first attempt, but I almost wish I had started with something a little more ambitious. Still, there’s something really satisfying about enjoying the fruits of your own labor. I mean, I turned water into beer! How awesome is that? Here it is:

Homebrew #1

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it pours a nice dark brown color, with some shades of amber, especially when you hold it up to the light. Solid sized head, but only minor lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic. It’s got a really sweet and bready smell. Taste starts off well enough. A little sweetness up front and the finish is actually rather dry. Unfortunately, it tastes a little thin to me. This is fine at the start of the glass (I think it makes a good first impression), but it’s not as satisfying as you near the end. There’s definitely no complexity at all in the taste… but then, there don’t appear to be any off flavors either. Also, I was brewing from a rather ordinary kit recipe that wasn’t really attempting any complexity, so there’s that. All in all, I think it’s probably a step up from the typical macro light lager, but it’s not going to light the world on fire either. I’ll give it a C+, which I think is probably fair.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

I’m pretty happy with my first attempt here, but it’s clear that there’s a lot of room for improvement. I learned a lot in my first attempt though, and I’m confident that my next beer will at least be more interesting, if not exactly perfect…

Flying Dog

A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog’s variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I’ve been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty – a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy “fizzy yellow stuff”, but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it’s a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that’s hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog’s own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn’t quite as complex as I’d have hoped. I’ve never been a big fan of the style though, so that’s probably part of my distaste. It’s not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn’t to say that they don’t make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I’ve heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

Yards IPA

I really want to like Yards. They’re a local brewery and their selection is varied and even interesting. They’ve got this historical Philadelphia thing going on and heck, their labels are cool! Plus, you know, I’m a homer. If the beer is made close to here, I’ll try it out. Yet, every beer I have from them seems to underwhelm. They’re never bad, per say, they just never seem to really knock my socks off. Their IPA is a pretty good example:

Yards India Pale Ale: Pours a nice amber color with a decent head. Typical IPA hoppy smell (which is good), but the taste is pretty light on flavor (which is bad). You get some maltyness and the bitter hoppy slap at the end, but it’s all rather weak. And there’s a little bit of an aftertaste too, something that makes this beer hard to recommend. The beer nerds at BA seem to think more of this, so perhaps the tap I had it from was screwed up or something (it was at a crappy sports bar that had a whopping 2 craft beers available, so that’s not beyond the realm of possibility). Maybe it’s just that I’ve been having some exceptional IPAs of late, and this is certainly better than the light-lager swill most sports bars specialize in, but I still say give this one a pass. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.0% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass.

Inexplicably, I still have not given up on Yards. They’ve somewhat recently started a series called the Ales of the Revolution, where they’re recreating beers (allegedly) brewed by folks like Washington, Franklin and Jefferson (and apparently, there exist Bourbon Barrel Aged versions of each, though I haven’t seen any around yet). Maybe I’m a sucker for the revolutionary gimmick, but I want to try these.