Beer Review: Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Do you ever just get an idea for a dish stuck in your head and it pesters you until you finally buckle under the pressure and try to make it? That’s what happened with this sandwich. I had some leftover brie and a bag of brussels sprouts in my fridge and the thought of this creation haunted me.  I wanted a brie grilled cheese stuffed with roasted brussels sprouts and smothered in grainy mustard.

Well, it was a mess. It oozed out all over the place. I had to pick globs of brie up off of the plate with my hands and just sort of tuck in like I had no manners at all. It was an experiment, but it was a damn delicious one, even if it was maybe a failure in some ways.

This beer was, similarly, an experiment that I think didn’t really pay off. It pours straw gold with a hint of orange from the bottle. There’s a very ephemeral, short-lived head that’s less than a finger high, which disappeared in about 30 seconds. Maybe less. The carbonation in this beer is very active in the glass, bubbling away.

It doesn’t smell like much: faintly bready and almost like a witbier. I don’t smell a whiff of cinnamon, though, which is disorienting. You think it’d be in there, front and center.

The cinnamon is the dominant taste, though. It’s nice and strong up front, but fades about as quickly as it came. Honestly, the aftertaste of this beer, once the cinnamon disappears, taste a lot like applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled into it. The beer is made with long grain rice so it’s no wonder it has a very light body and flavor.

Honestly, there’s not a lot going on here. It’s refreshing enough if you like cinnamon (and I do), but nothing really great in the end. Personally, I wouldn’t bother buying this experiment again. Just two out of five mugs.

Review: Draai Laag R2 Koelschip

True rebels, spontaneous fermenting beers are wild and free-form creatures. These are beers left to Mother Nature’s own whims, using bacteria from the air or that is leftover in a barrel instead of the industry standard cultivated yeasts available. A wild ale is one that has the characteristics of Brettanomyces (funky, fruity, spicy), which used to drive brewers crazy centuries ago, as it grew naturally on fruit skins and just got into everything they were doing – sometimes with unpleasant results.

R2 Koelschip by Draai Laag in Pennsylvania is one such wild ale. I chose it because it sounded like a fun style to try and because it had a low ABV ( I was killing time before running my monthly writing critique group). I hadn’t heard of Draai Laag before, but it’s from my home state, so I was more than willing to give it a chance. It turns out, the brewery focuses on European brewing styles but uses the native flora of the region to create unique flavor profiles. I’m game.

It’s a dark, warm honey hue that’s actually golden at the very bottom of the goblet that this was poured into. There’s a thin white head, but absolutely no lacing – not surprising, as this style doesn’t really lend itself to that. It smells bright and citrusy to me, like sour cherries (I swear to you, my mouth was watering at this point). There are also some notes of underripe pear, hay, and grains.

The taste, I would say, is lemon-forward and kind of reminds me of the taste of preserved lemons, which are a middle eastern/north African dish of salted, pickled whole small lemons (these are delicious over rice, but I digress). This beer is not salty, though, not at all like a gose, so don’t let that comparison fool you. There’s some great, crisp, slightly dry green apple sourness, too. As it mellows out, there are biscuit and grain flavors on the back of my tongue that are a hint dry.

This is a really fantastic and creative beer in my mind. Packed full of flavors, though perhaps a touch dry for me, I definitely recommend it to the adventurous beer drinkers out there. Four out of five mugs of tasty Brett goodness.

 

Beer 101: Glassware

There are many styles of glassware that can be used to enjoy beer. While I’m generally a pint glass kind of gal (if I’m not swilling my beverage straight from a bottle or can while running the dishwasher or attending a picnic, that is), I’ve tried and come to appreciate a wide variety of beer vessels in my time. Here are a few of my favorites, which can be found at True Beer (with whom I am not affiliated in any way):

Chalice/Goblet

Nothing is going to make you feel more like you’re in an episode of Game of Thrones than a big ol’ chalice of ale. To be clear: a chalice is the more stout, thick-walled version and the goblet is generally more delicate. The bottom of these glasses are often marked or scored to create imperfections in the bottom of the inside of the glass – this creates a nucleation site to encourage more carbonation and a bigger head. These traditionally pair great with Belgians, strong dark ales, and higher ABV beers.

Pint Glass

The standard American pint glass is a 16oz somewhat cylindrical glass with a slight taper, creating a wider top. These are prevalent, easy to buy, relatively cheap to replace, and good with a wide range of beer styles. Pale ales, witbiers, English bitters, stouts, and more are all a good match for the traditional pint glass.

Weizen Glass

This tall, thin-walled beauty is designed specifically for wheat or weizen-style beers. It’s built to show off the tall, beautiful heads that these beers are known for while also locking in lots of those banana and clove aromas that are signature. Use this to serve hefeweizen, kristalweizen, gose, and other wheat ales.

 Mug/Glass Stein

Sturdy and large with a handle for a good grip (and keeping warm hands away from cold brews), these are great for a rousing round of cheers as they’re less likely to crack or break than their peers. Plus, they can hold a lot of beer. While traditional German steins have lids and were made from stone, modern glass version are less concerned with plague-ridden flies from getting in . Lagers, Ales (I know, that’s basically everything), marzens, stouts, and more can be served in mugs.

Review: Southern Tier Porter

Sometimes, it’s nice to appreciate the simpler things in life. I’ll take a meyer lemon gose or a cardamom IPA or an espresso stout any day of the week and love that variety. But today, it’s back to basics: a simple, standard porter from Southern Tier. I love a good porter and was a loyal drinker of the style for many years. I’ve lately turned away from it and sought IPAs and more exotic beers – but today, I’ll return to my roots and put my fate in the hands of Southern Tier, a brewery that I’ve generally liked in the past.

Again, this is what I get for experimenting with different tea towels as backgrounds.

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, this is a beautiful, rich, dark brown with a slightly auburn tinge to it. No light seems to pass through it. It has just the tiniest head of a lovely cream color – a puff that dissipates very quickly. There’s a small trace of an island of foam left behind, but it’s not much. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by some recent stouts and porters on nitro.

It smells roasty, like dark bread , dark chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, and raisin. It’s only 5.5% ABV, but it smells boozy to me. Maybe it’s that brown sugar and raisin smell that’s often associated with higher ABV dark beers and brandywines.

Honestly, the taste is really lacking the punch that the nose suggested there would be. It over-promises and vastly under-delivers. It’s a little watery and thin, as porters sometimes are (and which I do not care for). It’s not at all full-bodied in either flavor or in mouthfeel. It tastes the most like that raisiny booziness that I got off of the nose. There is some flavor from the dark, roasted malts, but it’s also distressingly thin. The carbonation is relatively low. And there’s something sticky about the texture.

It’s a fine enough beer, it’s very much signature of the style in many ways, but maybe it’s not the style for me any longer. I think I’d pass up this particular porter in the future. Three out of five mugs for me.

Beer 101: Glossary

Craft beer, both when drinking it or brewing it, comes with a lot of jargon attached to it. IBU? ABV? Diacetyl? Specific gravity? There’s a lot to learn. Lucky for all of us, there are some fantastic craft beer glossaries out there that can solve some of these vocabulary mysteries.

My personal favorites are this one from beeradvocate and this one from craftbeer.com

There was a brief moment in which I considered making my own beer glossaries, but these are such great examples already – and from reputable sources, too – that it seemed maybe a little bit silly for me to try and tackle such a project. Happy glossary-ing!

Review: Oliver Brewing Co Balls to the Wall APA

I love beer and I love food. I’m a simple creature, really. I also love cooking and few things go better with food prep than a cold beer. In this case, I had plenty of time for beer as I was braising a small pork shoulder with some apple cider vinegar. This would eventually become some beautiful pulled pork with a spicy-sweet bbq sauce.

The Oliver Brewing Co website promises “a gratifying hop punch” with this beer, so I had some expectations in place before I even tasted it. No one likes to be disappointed, so don’t get me all worked up for nothing, please, beer.

Balls to the Wall fills my glass with a rich golden color that’s slightly hazy in appearance. There’s a fluffy, energetic white head that falls away fast, leaving behind a few spots of lacing. It smells very hoppy (as promised!) in the family of something very piney and green. It doesn’t smell dank at all, but very bright and fresh, perhaps like mowed grass (which I sort of hate because it sets off my allergies, but in theory it smells really nice).

Seriously, I can’t with this green towel. I thought it was a good idea, but I was sorely mistaken.

The first taste is a hop wallop to be sure. It’s not a palate wrecker, though. It’s still very refreshing on the whole. And – good in my book – it’s not too terribly dry on the finish, so that’s a thumbs up from me. It’s honestly kind of like licking a pine tree… if it weren’t for the sap and bark and other gross stuff, I guess. Imagine with me, here.

I really enjoyed this and found it flavorful and fairly well balanced. Five out of five mugs, I’d definitely seek this out in the future.

Review: Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA

I have an odd combination of a serious sweet tooth, but also a lot of self-control in my weight-loss mission. So, while I might not eat sweets very often, I absolutely love  them. A favorite since childhood are those gummy orange slices with coarse sugar on them. You know them. I know you do.

Right? Those. Keep them in mind when I talk about this beer because, well, they’re relevant.

Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA is described on the bottle as an “India Pale Ale with tangerine” that is “zesty and bright.” That’s a promise that I can get behind – it was a hot day and I was in a mood for something light and refreshing, but full of flavor.

I have some regrets about this green towel backdrop – I’m not sure I’d use it again.

It pours a really attractive orangey-marigold color with a little trace of whitish head, but that fades pretty quickly. There is some decent, fairly sticky lacing from this beer. Made with a blend of Citra and Cascade hops, this should be incredibly tropical and juicy. Oddly, it smells wheaty and not very citrusy at all. I’ll admit that I’m confused. I expected a wallop of orange – and I get some – but I mostly get biscuit malt up front. Not a very hoppy smell at all.

The taste, however, is lots of heavy tangerine up front with some hoppiness on the tongue. The finish is very sweet with a mellow, orangey flavor like canned mandarin slices or fruit salad in light syrup. It’s good good balance overall, but a slightly dry finish. It’s not unpalatable, but definitely notable. The biggest downside to me in this beer is that aftertaste of dryness. Otherwise, it’s incredibly fruit and refreshing.

So, those gummy slices? I’d say this beer matches them for orange-flavored intensity (though it isn’t nearly as sweet). I give it four out of five mugs and would likely buy it again.

Beer 201: Mosaic Hops

Meet the fruity hop varietal that opened exciting new doors for brewers worldwide. By all accounts, Mosaic hops are the baby of the family – they’ve only been around for about four years now. Not so different from what farmers have been doing since farming existed, this hops was cross-bred and selected for the properties that growers were most interested in: in this case, berry flavors, mango, and floral notes.

Bred by the same company that is responsible for Simcoe and Citra hops, Lagunitas and other small craft brewers were early adopters of this big-bodied varietal. A popular example of a Mosaic-forward beer is Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. It’s becoming popular for single-hopped IPAs and session beers. – and we’re definitely in a single-hopped beer boom right now.

In order to have a successfully executed single-hop, the hops need to be dynamic and distinct – no middle of the road wallflower hops here. Mosaic’s flavor profile is juicy and fruity without being sweet, pleasantly resinous, and it also features a balanced bitterness for a crisp, dry finish.

I”m excited to try more beers that prominently feature Mosaic. The ones on my wishlist include: