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.