Beer Review: Abita Turbodog Brown Ale

Some things in life are very important to me: these include: dressing up for the Renaissance Festival, dressing up for Halloween, and beer. Lucky for me, I can combine all three of these things right here, right now. I donned the pirate ensemble I made for RennFest this year both for my office and for Trick or Treaters. I love how the dress/coat turned out!

As it got dark and more of them came out, I decided to level up my pirateness by getting out my mug, which I use at the RennFest as well as whenever I play or run tabletop games. Let me tell you what, this thing keeps cold beers mighty cold!

I wasn’t in the mood for anything with bite or fruit taste to it. Luckily, I had grabbed an Abita Turbodog in my last make-your-own-six-pack run to Total Wine in Laurel. This brown ale would be my Halloween beer! It poured out with a ton of off-white, creamy, fluffy head. The nose was a true brown ale with lots of malt and a little burnt sugar or caramel in there. It took a few minutes for that head to settle down before I could drink it.

The first sip is flavorful, not really sweet… but there was something tinny about it. Something metallic. And, yes, it’s the beer and not my long-proven mug – my first sip was even from the bottle. I’m not sure I love that imperfection that’s at work here. There’s a slight aftertaste of cinnamon or maybe apple. It’s autumnal and pleasant, but I can’t get past the metallic hint. It really ruins the whole thing.

I’m not sure if this was a flaw in the batch or if this is true to this brew, but I’m hesitant to buy this beer again because of that flaw. Two out of five, I think I’ll pass on it in the future.

 

Beer 201: Greaves’ Rules

A friend recently introduced me to the drinker’s sort of ten commandments (there are ten pieces, yes, but that’s not why) known as Greaves’ Rules. Devised by now-retired British journalist, these ten rules describe the etiquette of round-buying and drinking conduct in public houses. Now, if these rules are any indication, British drinking culture is a bit different than the American one that I know.

Or maybe my practice of drinking solo to kill time between work and another social engagement means that I just do go out drinking properly. Or, at least, properly in the sense of the Brits. How do these rules strike you? Are they similar to your own drinking habits or do you do something different as well?

Greaves’ Rules

1. When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2. This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3. In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

4. The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5. Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6. For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7. Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8. When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9. In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10. Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion

Beer Review: Stone Brewing Jindia Double IPA

When I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg, I heard one of my bar neighbors talking smack about a peppery, spicy beer. That had my name written all over it, so I asked which beer that one was and ordered a pint blindly. Sometimes we just have to trust in fate pointing us to the right brew.

Stone Brewing’s Jindia Double IPA pours a very handsome, rich golden-amber hue. There’s about a finger of cream-colored head on it with some staying power in those little bubbles. It smells almost wine-like to me, which may have something to do with the 8.7% ABV on this beer. There are also notes of bread, ginger (but not too aggressive – no burning nostrils here), light citrus, and a dash of herbaceous juniper.

At first taste, it’s peppery up front, but in a nice, warm sort of way – which is where the ginger comes in, a close second in this marching order of flavors. It moves through a slightly sweet citrus phase before finishing dry, but in a pleasant way. It’s full of many layers of great tastes that go well together in my mind. It gets a little dryer as it warms up and is maybe on the cusp of being too dry, but honestly it is overall really delightful. The mouthfeel is good, pleasantly light, and the carbonation seems balanced for the flavor profile.

There’s a wonderful, refreshing mix of botanicals in this brew. I’m usually on the fence about juniper in anything – I’m just as likely to like it as have my stomach turned by it. It’s always a fun surprise. I’m not sure I would have ordered this if I’d known it would have juniper in it. All the same, I’m glad that I did. This was a juniper beer that went over well for me.

This was a risk that paid off well for me. I would most definitely order this beer again, as long as I had the time to slowly enjoy a DIPA. 8.7% packs a wallop. Five out of five mugs from me.

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.

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.

Review: Sam Adams Rebel Juiced IPA

I’m growing attached to Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg. It’s very convenient to my work and their rotating tap selection is pretty varied most of the time. I went ahead and got my growler filled here again on a Friday. This time, I went with a brewery that I’ve learned to lean on when I can’t decide what I want: Sam Adams. They’re not exceptional, generally, but they’re very reliable. I hadn’t had this IPA before and I was in the mood for something bright and fruity, so this seemed like a good match based on the taste that I tried.

I had a pint glass of this at home that same evening and, as usual, made another somewhat sloppy pour from the too-heavy growler, full of beer. This picture and review are of the second glass, poured a day later, and which still tasted perfectly fresh after being open for a day. There was a finger of fluffy head on day two. There’s some strong lacing and a little wisp of foam that’s slow to fade away.

It’s very aromatic, I don’t even need to put my nose right up to the glass; I get tons of big, juicy, citrusy hops without getting in close. But when I do put my nose down to the beer, I get plenty of the same. It’s not a simple one-note orange smell, but lots of tropical fruit and citrus and even some green notes. Not dank green, not sharp or bright, but a fresh and somewhat grassy green.

The first taste is orange with maybe a little mango or pineapple flavor to it. Again, not one-note orange, it’s fairly complex. It’s very refreshing up front with some well-balanced hoppiness that’s a hint dry, but not more than I like. I’m very into the wide range of tropical and citrus flavors at work in this beer. I would buy it again for sure, but it’s nothing terribly risky from Sam Adams as citrusy IPAs are really having their day right now. This is a gentler IPA for the crowd that isn’t into too high an IBU rating. Four out of five for me.

 

Review: Brookeville Beer Farm Interdependence IPA

I got my growler filled at Beers and Cheers Too with this IPA when I grabbed a pint there earlier in the week. I tried a few IPAs and other ales to find the right one and this one seemed like the winning taster. As growlers are wont to do, this one kept a good seal before I opened it the first time to have this pint.

Brookeville Beer Farm’s Interdependence IPA pours a beautiful golden hue that’s bright and quite clear. There’s a fluffy off-white head on it that leaves behind some handsome lacing behind as it falls rather quickly. Of course, my first pour from a full and heavy growler is always a mess and a little head-heavy. Damn my noodle arms! It smells delightfully bright and fruit – passion fruit and strawberry and maybe just a hint of a wheat background with some bright piney notes.

The taste is, to me, grapefruit and berry-forward. Then it hits the roof of my mouth with a dryness that isn’t terrible, but it is a little more than I love in my choices in beers. It’s sweet for the first few moments and then a touch bitter. It’s full of flavor for sure, but I wouldn’t call it especially balanced. The dryness gets a little overwhelming as the beer warms up further and the berry flavor fades away.

I’ll finish the growler (of course – I don’t waste!), but it wasn’t the best choice. I enjoyed it more when it was quite cold, as it was when I sampled it at the shop. I don’t think I’d repeat this one. Three out of five (preferably) frosty mugs.

Review: Deschutes Obsidian Stout Nitro

On this fateful day, I decided to try a new little bottle shop close to my work: Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg, MD. They’ve got a decent tap selection for a smaller place as well as some bar, high top, and outdoor seating. I came for a growler fill but stayed for a pint.

And what a nice pint! They had several selections of stouts on nitro and, let me tell you, a velvety smooth stout or porter is a big hit with me. I trust Deschutes, they’ve knocked it out of the park with me plenty of times before, so I went in for this beer.

Obsidian Stout pours a beautiful, opaque, almost-black color with a silky tan head that’s about one finger high. It’s served up pretty cold, so I only got some slightly toasted grain and maybe a hint of cocoa notes. Also, maybe a warm, grain alcohol smell. Can something smell like that alcoholic heat? Maybe it’s whiskey that the smell reminds me of.

The first taste is a hint metallic, but immediately fades off into malty sweetness and roasted coffee. There’s a backbone of bitterness here and it’s like dark chocolate to me – and I love love love 70-80% dark chocolate bars (and cannot stand white “chocolate,” but that untruth which is perpetuated upon Americans regularly is a rant for another day).

This stout might have been a little watery were it not for the richness that the nitro brings to the table. It’s a little but thick, but never heavy. It’s such an excellent experience on nitro that I doubt I’d want to drink it any other way. Five out of five tasty beers for this one.

Beer 101: Lacing

Just what is that thin smattering of foam that sticks to the inside of the beer glass after the head has fallen and you’ve drank some of the beer down? It’s called lacing, and there are a wide variety of factors that contribute to its appearance and nature – but lacing is not a direct indicator of beer quality.

To clarify, the head of the beer is the fluffy foam at the very top of the beer and the lacing is the leftover white/cream that clings to the glass at every point where the head comes to sit as you deplete your beer. It’s made up of a protein structure, as is the head, which is why it can sometimes be quite tall and stiff, depending on how much protein is hanging out with the CO2. This protein, LTP1, is hydrophobic (it avoids contact with water if at all possible) forms a coating around a bubble and helps head keep its structure this way. More on this later.

Some of the things that influence beer lacing are:

  • cleanliness of the glass
  • dryness of the glass
  • malt levels
  • hop levels
  • freshness of hops
  • alcohol content
  • amount of carbonation
  • type of carbonation
  • and more!

A clean glass with no soap residue promotes lacing (if the beer is prone to lacing in the first place), but it must be properly dried. A wet glass makes it nearly impossible for lacing to form and cling to the sides of the glass.

Certain malt varietals are said to promote lacing and head retention, but not all of them do this. Hops, however, can interact with the LTP1 protein and make more clingy, rigid foam.

Beers with higher alcohol content tend to have less head and lacing, but more legs (the streaks of liquid that slowly flow down the sides of the glass after swirling or drinking beer or wine).

Nitro beers also tend to have a very different textured and structured head and lacing than their traditional counterparts as nitrogen is largely insoluble in water, so it creates many small bubbles and a thicker mouthfeel.