Sunday, April 7, 2013

National Beer Day (USA)

   Happy National Beer Day, everyone! If you didn't know, April 7, 1933 was the first day in 12 years that Americans could buy alcohol (though it was somehow legal to consume, just not to make, sell or buy). 

   Though Prohibition seemed favorable at the time, it had severely adverse effects. It created disrespect for Law and religion. Prohibition created organized crime and corrupted the legal system and politics. It crippled an entire industry, causing incredible job and revenue losses. Prohibition created the first binge drinkers and since then, the average person has always consumed more alcohol than pre-prohibition. And last but not least, prohibition lost the Federal government $11 billion in tax revenue while costing $300 million to enforce the law.

Prohibition was an epic failure and has given us 3 lessons to learn. 

  1. You cannot legislate morality. People will not obey, and it will actually make Law and Religion less popular.
  2. The best way to make something popular is to make it illegal. If people have to do something in secret, you can bet that they'll be doing more of it when they do.
  3. People will always find a way to get what they want. When something becomes illegal, organized crime will make sure anyone who wants it can get it because that is profitable (and tax free).
  So go out, beer drinkers, and celebrate the freedom that was once taken, fought for, and restored. Do so in moderation, of course, because responsible drinking is good drinking and we don't want our American government to attempt to strip The People of their rights once more.

For those who are not from the United States, 

International Beer Day occurs each year on the first Friday in August, landing on the 2nd of August, 2013. You can click here to learn more about International Beer Day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

   I know it's a little early, but I figured it would be best to write before the celebrations begin, rather than during. This Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday, many across North America and Europe will celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. If you don't happen to know much about this Irish holiday, here's a short explanation:

  • Saint Patrick was born Maewyn Succat of England and at the age of 16 was kidnapped by Irish sailors.
  • When Maewyn escaped Ireland and returned to England, he joined the church and took on the name Patrick upon priesthood. 
  • Patrick returned to Ireland to spread Christianity, famously using the shamrock as a visual to explain the Holy Trinity.
  • Patrick died on March 17, and he was later named a Saint and the day was used to honor him.
  • Since the 1600's ,March 17  is celebrated by feast and drink as the Lenten restrictions on food and alcohol are lifted for the day. 
  • The wearing of green and shamrocks originates from the attire worn by Saint Patrick, though he originally wore the color blue. The color green appears to have been derived from the shamrock.
  • Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, though despite popular belief he is not a Patron Saint of beer drinkers or brewers
   Now that you've had a history lesson and learned something, you can go ahead and reward yourself with a cold pint. To celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, I would recommend an Irish beer. If you can't find an Irish beer, an Irish-style beer will suffice.

Irish Beers to Consider

(Note: This list contains beers commonly found in the United States)

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is a stout made for export, featuring extra hops and 7.5% abv to preserve the beer. 

Guinness Draught is the original "black stuff", roasty and creamy and weighs in at a low 4.1% abv, which means you can enjoy more of them.

Smithwick's is a Red Ale that tastes much lighter than a Stout and has a strong malt flavor and contains 4.5% abv.

Harp Lager is brewed by Guinness. It has a light flavor like Guinness Black Lager but instead of tasting like roasted malt, it tastes like pale malt. It's the "tan" part of a black and tan, which I would recommend on this Irish holiday.

Tips for a Good Celebration

  1. Plan ahead. It's good to know where you'll be, whether it be a bar or someone's home.
  2. Plan transportation. In the United States, Saint Patrick's Day is filled with heavy drinking. Even if you are sober, you can still get into an accident if someone else drinks and drives. Be safe, and if you're drinking then plan to use public transportation or a designated driver. Knowing before you drink means you won't have to worry about it later.
  3. Stay hydrated. Alcohol deprives your body of water, so it is good to space drinks with a glass of water. It will slow your consumption, which will also slow the effects of alcohol.

   So now that you're all filled in on Saint Patrick's Day, let's raise a pint and toast to Ireland, for today everyone is Irish!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Beer Tasting: Henry Weinhard's Woodland Pass IPA

  Since 1862, Henry Weinhard's has been a beer staple in the American Northwest. Originally a craft-brewery, the Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co is now owned by MillerCoors and has gone from local-favorite to a national-brand.

The Story

  Founded in 1862, Henry Weinhard's has recently gone national. Originally brewed in Portland, OR, the brand was eventually owned by Stroh Brewing Company and later sold to Miller in 1999. The brewery was soon closed but the brand survived, brewed in Washington until 2003. SAB Miller (The Miller side of MillerCoors) contracted Full Sail Brewing in Hood River, OR, to brew the Henry Weinhard's brand, a contract ending this month. Originally a staple in the Northwest, in September 2012 the brand went national with Woodland Pass IPA, Private Reserve (an American Pale Lager), and Redwood Flats Amber Ale.

The Taste

  Woodland Pass IPA pours a light translucent, almost lager-like caramel color with a dense head. Take a deep smell and you'll find that this IPA has a bit of malty aroma and a strong hop presence that doesn't overpower. After tasting you may notice some caramel notes followed with the slightly strong hop flavor and lingering bitter aftertaste that American IPAs are known for, albeit a little toned down. Woodland Pass IPA has a light mouth-feel and seems a little light on flavor, almost like a highly-hopped lager.

The Decision

  According to MillerCoors, Woodland Pass IPA has been toned down a little (compared to pre-MillerCoors ownership) to appeal to a broader audience, and if you are used to drinking IPAs you will likely find that this one is indeed toned down a bit. West Coast IPAs typically have a very strong hop flavor and bitterness compared to IPAs found on the East Coast (which will sometimes take on more fruity or malt flavors), and this one tastes more like an East Coast- or British-style IPA that's had the IBUs (International Bittering Units) turned down while still retaining some of the actual flavor of the hops. IPAs generally measure 40-60 IBUs, Woodland Pass measures at 43.
   While it may be a letdown to avid IPA fans, this is still a good beer which may be used to introduce beer drinkers to the style. At roughly $6.50 for a six-pack, this also makes a decent beer for drinking on the budget or sharing with friends. Also worth mentioning is that this beer weighs in at 6% abv, which means you can get a beer that has the same alcohol content as Budweiser Black Crown or Bud Light Platinum but at a lower price. And who knows, you may even prefer the taste.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beer Tasting: Third Shift Amber Lager

  Today we have beer that has very recently reached a status of nationwide distribution. Third Shift Amber Lager is -you guessed it- an American Amber Lager. It is advertised as a beer brewed round-the-clock with passion, and has the look of a Craft Beer and "Corporate Beer" hybrid. So what's the deal with this beer that  nobody has heard of but is suddenly available nationwide?

The Story

  Third Shift Amber Lager is brewed in Trenton, OH and Fort Worth, TX under the company name Band of Brewers Co. The knowledgeable beer drinker may recognize those two cities as MillerCoors Brewery locations. This is no coincidence, as Third Shift was developed by MillerCoors to create a new brand that appealed to both Craft Beer and "Corporate Beer" markets alike, a major selling-point being that it has a stronger flavor than Big Beer offerings but at a modest price- roughly $7 a six-pack.
  A second selling point is that Third Shift Amber Lager is a Gold Medal Winner in the Märzen category, according to David Coors, Third Shift Brand Manager. The legitimacy of this claim, however, remains unsure as I have yet to find a competition winners list which lists this beer as a winner, or even as an entrant.
  Note: It appears that Third Shift Amber Lager was originally brewed as "Flor Hosen" by the Sandlot brewpub (owned by Coors, operating as Blue Moon Brewing Co.) and won Gold in the Great American Beer Festival 2010 and Gold in the World Beer Cup 2012, both in the Märzen category.

The Taste

  When you twist off the cap and pour a bottle of Third Shift Amber Lager, you will find that it pours a coppery color with a small, light head and low carbonation. Take a few whiffs and you'll notice that this beer smells lightly of malt with an almost fruity aroma. At first taste, Third Shift Amber Lager doesn't really have any distinctness, neither sweet nor bitter, malty nor hoppy. As it leaves the tongue it begins to taste a little more like grain and yeast with still almost no malt or hop characteristics. Most simply put, it is reminiscent of a Pale Lager but with a stronger flavor from the grains, almost as if the malt and hops cancel each other out instead of each having balanced presence.

The Decision

  All in all, Third Shift Amber Lager gives you what you pay for. At under 7 dollars, it doesn't bring the flavor of a beer like Bell's Amber Lager, but it has a stronger taste than Coors Light, which is exactly what MillerCoors is going for. In a statement by MillerCoors, Third Shift Amber Lager is an "Invitation Beer", meant to bring people into the Craft Beer Market. Why would MillerCoors want to bring consumers to the Craft Beer Market? Most likely this is so that they can push "craft beer brands" owned by MillerCoors such as Blue Moon. The Craft Beer market is growing at a rate beyond what MillerCoors and AB-Inbev have seen in years, so I think that this is only one of many future beers that will operate as "Invitation Brands", much like AB-Inbev's Budweiser Black Crown.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beer Tasting: Budweiser Black Crown


 Super Bowl 47 is coming up this Sunday, and what better time for a beer to get its advertising debut? After all, Anheuser-Busch had great success launching Bud Light Platinum just days before Super Bowl 46 and first advertising it during the most-watched American Football game of the year. The apparent idea was to advertise the beer and when people saw the ad they would ask their bartenders for a Platinum. And boy, did it work; within months, Bud Light Platinum took up over 1% of the American beer market. Will Anheuser-Busch see a repeat with the new Budweiser Black Crown?

The Story

Black Crown was developed when 12 pairs of AB-InBev brewers were tasked with creating the next Budweiser variation. 12 beers were created and tested among 25,000 consumers who elected Black Crown the next "King of Beers". If Bud Light Platinum had an "Irish Twin", that twin would be Black Crown. While Platinum is a malt-liquor marketed as a sophisticated beer for the sophisticated drinker, Black Crown is more highly-hopped when compared to Budweiser and appears to be marketed as a more sophisticated beer for the craft-beer enthusiast. Both are 6% ABV, compared to the 4.2% ABV Bud Light and 5% ABV Budweiser, and both cost 35% more than their classic counterparts.

The Taste

Budweiser Black crown pours a translucent amber color with a large head which quickly dissipates. Black Crown smells very much like the classic Budweiser with faintly more hop aroma. At first taste, this beer has slightly more body than the classic Bud and a stronger malt flavor with a very light bitterness from the increased hop presence. The signature rice flavor is there, lightening the taste of the beer while giving a distinct flavor and sweetness which only comes from rice. At first taste I did not really enjoy Black Crown, though after drinking four bottles throughout the week I grew to like the beer a little more. But all in all, this beer tastes very much like Budweiser's other beers. They have a classic formula that appeals to the broadest audience possible, so it's only natural for Anheuser-Busch to tweak the beer, give it a new label, and advertise it as a very different beer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beer Tasting: Batch 19

As I browsed my favorite local beer retailer, I noticed Batch 19. I had never seen it before and was intrigued by the label and unique bottle shape. I searched the label for the name of the brewery, and in small letters I found "Coors". This was the same day I had read about Budweiser releasing a new beer to compete with the Craft Beer market, so I decided I had to try this "pre-prohibition style" beer.

The Story

Batch 19 is inspired by the beer Americans consumed before prohibition of alcohol was mandated in 1919. For fourteen years breweries were forced to make new products or close. Coors Brewing Company adapted by making malted milk and non-alcoholic beers, but was mostly kept alive due to other businesses owned by Adolph Coors. 
The story behind Batch 19 is an odd one. When prohibition was repealed, Coors started making beer again. But without the original beer recipe, they had to make a new one and thus, Coors Banquet was born. Then in 2004 a brewer allegedly found the old recipe and the company began brewing Batch 19, inspired by the recipe (not using the recipe itself). The company claims that the original Coors used malts, hops, and yeast which are no longer available. 
If the story sounds like a gigantic marketing ploy to enter the Craft Beer market, you are not alone; Batch 19 has been met with a lot of skepticism over its limited release and growler sales. Though the truth may be hard to find, a beer is best judged on the way it tastes.


At first pour, Batch 19 looks distinctly different from the classic American Pale Lager. Batch 19 pours a deep copper color with a fluffy cream-colored head. It really is a beautiful beer with bubbles dancing and a thick lacing (rings of foam around the glass as beer is consumed). Take a good smell and you'll notice that Batch 19 smells rather bread-y and has a hint of that familiar Coors scent, but with slightly (very slightly) more hops and a bit more malt. At first taste you'll find this beer tastes much like it smells, reminiscent of Coors with a subtle hop flavor and a stronger malt. The overall taste is much stronger than the classic pale lager and the medium body finishes with an interesting bread flavor that is neither light nor crisp. Batch 19 weighs in at 5.5% ABV, a little stronger than the 4.2% ABV Coors Light. 
My personal experience with this beer was not exactly positive. While I thought it was great to try something new, I felt like Batch 19 was made very much along the lines of a macro-beer rather than a craft beer. While it looks like perfection and tastes stronger than Coors Light, I think I would prefer the Coors Light. Batch 19 tastes too much like a good bread with hops and malt; I'd prefer to just eat the bread (maybe on a sandwich) and drink a malt-driven beer. I'm not sure if it was the beer or just coincidence, but after consumption I had a headache that lasted through the night and next morning. 
The purpose of this blog is not to rate beers and point people in one direction and away from another, so despite my bad experience I would recommend that the adventurous beer drinker try this beer. At first taste, this lager is different-- very different if you normally drink Coors or Budweiser. If you drink lagers from the Craft Beer market, you may find this beer a little different but slightly sub-par in comparison. 

Beer Tasting: Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
In the cold Winter months, many beer drinkers turn to dark, spiced ales. But if you are looking for something different during the doldrums, then never fear! Rogue, who pride themselves in going against the grain, has something to offer.

Hazelnut Brown Nectar is a Winter seasonal from Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon. This brown ale holds a lot of characteristics that are common among brown ales, pouring a chestnut color with some clarity and a creamy, fluffy head. Take a good whiff and you'll immediately notice the hazelnut, smelling like both a beer and a coffee drink. At first taste it is a little bitter and rounds out with a nutty semi-sweet flavor, finishing with a little caramel and chocolate taste. This beer has a lot of sweet hazelnut flavor, definitely fitting the descriptors "Hazelnut" and "Nectar".

The first time I had Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar was from the tap, and I thought it had a great hazelnut and malt presence. Most recently, I had it from the bottle. I'm not sure if it's the bottling, the distance between Oregon and Michigan, or the time the beer set on the shelf before my purchase; but there was a distinct difference between the two. My experience tasting Hazelnut Brown Ale from the bottle was enjoyable but not as enjoyable as from the tap, as the beer had a lower Hazelnut and malt flavor and had less of a full-bodied mouth feel.

That said, I would recommend Hazelnut Brown Ale in any shape or form. I could not find the ABV of this beer on the label nor on the brewery's website, but according to Hazelnut Brown Ale weighs in at 6.2% ABV; which means that you can split a six-pack with a friend over the course of dinner, a movie, or while watching your favorite sports.