Beer Review: Mendocino Brewing Co Red Tail Ale

Two friends are about to get married and I couldn’t be more excited. Although it was not on purpose, I still like to take credit for having introduced them. I met one in a writing group and dragged the other to it and they hit it off right away. Now, they’re getting hitched! They’ve asked me to be in the wedding, give some speeches, and even make some very minor alterations on the bride’s gown. For love, I’m more than happy to help.

This will be a picnic wedding, potluck style, so I’m bringing some of the stuff for a charcuterie plate (though there will also be a mini fonude pot because my friends and I are nothing if not ambitious). One thing I’m cooking off is some pork and apple sausage made at a local buthcer shop. It smells amazing. While a work, there’s nothing like a beer to keep me company.

To celebrate one union (my friends), I’ll opt in for another: birds and beer (two of my favs). Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, this rich, honeyed brown beer is just a touch hazy looking to me. Though there is an extremely minimal head, there’s a bit of a dusting of foam that dissipates in about a minute. The smell is sweet and raisin-like, which must come down to the malts in this beer as it’s only 6% ABV. There’s no hops smell at all – I get nothing but malt (but not the roasty kind), all sweet amber brown scents.

The first taste is as sweet as is to be expected. There’s not a lot of depth here, flavor-wise, and it’s a little watery-tasting or thin to me. There aren’t layers of flavor at work here. It’s malty, it’s brown, it’s sweet. That’s really it. I feel like the carbonation is a little high for what this is trying to be. There’s actually something slightly acidic and off about it to me.

I bought a six pack and I’ll probably drink them, but I doubt I’d buy this again. Two out of five. No thanks.

Beer Review: Lakefront Brewery Inc. Fixed Gear Red IPA

Recently, I visited Green bay, WI to meet some long-time online friends. We know one another as fellow crazy bird people from Instagram and Facebook and, kind of on a whim, I bought a plan ticket to go and meet them for the first time. Adventure! It was sort of a crazy thing to do, meeting strangers from the internet, but they felt like longtime friends and I knew I had to try.

Silas the Senegal (left) and Pepper the Green Cheek Conure (right), along with their humans, were there to greet me.

We spent the weekend eating, playing board games, drinking beer, cooking, and going up in a Cessna over Lake Michigan. It was pretty great!

Being in a new city meant I had to try some new beers that were local and that I couldn’t get anywhere near me. Obviously. We went to a bottle shop with a massive collection of beer, lots of which I’ve never seen in my area, and I made a bee line for the Wisconsin local beer section. Lakefront Brewery Inc’s Fixed Gear Red IPA was one of the six packs that I grabbed.

This was a lovely amber color, reddish with a fluffy off-white head. It left behind some fine lacing as I drank it. It’s a very pretty beer overall. There’s not a lot of nose there. Maybe a little raisin-scented, which I often find in those higher ABV beers – which this is most definitely not. We’re talking about 6.8%. Pretty middle of the road, honestly. There’s also some notes of floral hops going on here, but nothing especially green or bright.

While playing a few rounds of The Game of Things (which is a little bit like scattegories), I dug into this beer. It’s a tad dry, but very flavorful overall. It’s sooth and slightly fruity with a little bit of a hop punch, but never too much. It’s really easy drinking. I could happily enjoy this beer all day long.

If I could ever possibly find it in Maryland, I’d buy this one again. Easily four out of five mugs for me.

Beer Review : Atlas Brew Works Ponzi IPA

New-to-me DC-based Atlas Brew Works is, I can tell, a brewery that I will be going back to for more interesting pints. I like to drink local when I can and, while it’s not a guarantee of quality (everything in life is a mixed bag), keeping in a small geographical area can get you to try things you might have otherwise overlooked.

I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg and stared down their sizable beer list. Ponzi was described as being “criminally hoppy” which is sort of my equivalent of “you had me at ‘hello.'” I ordered up a pint and settled in.

I could smell this beer when the waitress set it down on the bar about a foot away from me – big biscuit and wheat smells wafted over to me along with some herbal hops. This IPA pours a rich straw gold color that’s fairly clear in a frosty pint glass. There’s a nice, fluffy, slow-to-fall white head made up of a fine matrix of bubbles. A close-up sniff gives me more citrus notes to go along with the initial hop-forward smell.

The taste is a big, west coast punch of flavor. The male (Munich) is light, yet flavorful and the hops cover a wide range of tastes from bright green on through dank. The finish is dry, yet very balanced. And there’s a sweetness here that reminds me of milk stouts and that made me wonder if there was any lactose added to this brew. The description that Atlas gives doesn’t mention it specifically, but there’s something going on with the malts here that is a little bit brown sugary.

There’s a whole garden full of hop varietals in here: Cascade, Chinook, Centential, Mandarina, and Ahtamun. Just bring the whole crew, why don’t you?

The nose on this beer promised big flavor and the taste delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely order it again. Five delicious mugs out of five.

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 Review: Drink Your Breakfast

Brunch and booze go well together. They’re an established power couple. Most folks think of the popular mimosa or bellini, perhaps an Irish coffee, or the classic Bloody Mary. But there’s more than just champagne and liquor to be had at these meals. Consider these four beers to enjoy before noon.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Brewed with oats, coffee, and bitter chocolate, this robust beer experience is intensely flavored. It is perhaps one of my all-time favorite beers and would go great with sweet or savory foods.

Sixpoint C.R.E.A.M.

Beer and coffee go great together, especially with this cold brew concoction from Sixpoint Brewery. Smooth and creamy, it offers a nice buzz (from both parties) any time of the day.

Michelada (“Red Beer”)

This is more of a beer cocktail than a straight beer, but it’s a great one that I only tried in Portland for the first time about a year and a half ago. Start with a salt/spice-rimmed pint glass, pour in a Mexican beer, and add a splash of Bloody Mary mix. How’s that for hair of the dog?

Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast

Combining coffee, maple syrup, beer, and… scrapple(!), this unusual blend of A.M. flavors is sure to start the day off right. Scrapple, for those not in the know, is a sort of mushy blend of pork scraps, spices, and fillers. It’s an odd duck, but it’s one that I grew up eating, so this Delaware-area local has won me over with its weird food charm.

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: 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.