Showing posts with label samuel adams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label samuel adams. Show all posts

Friday, September 20, 2019

Oktoberfest Taste Off - The Final

The final four.

Originally my intention had been to have a pair of semi finals followed by a final and third place play off, kind of like the World Cup, but I changed my mind.

On Sunday morning, Mrs V and I, with the twins in tow decided to go to the Somerset Pasture Party being held just up the road from us. Basically the "party" is an exhibition of vintage steam and gas powered contraptions, and with sons that get all excited at trains we figured they'd enjoy it too. We had also arranged to meet up with my good friend Dave and his wife Ali, along with their son, who is slightly older than our boys.


Once done with choking on wood and coal smoke, thank god for what remains of the EPA and the Clean Air Act frankly speaking, we all decamped to our place for lunch and drinkies. With the ladies in the kitchen preparing lunch, the kids watching cartoons and/or playing with toys, I decided to split the bottles I had for the four remaining beers with Dave and choose a final ranking for them. The final four, as a reminder, were:
We decided to rank them purely on the basis of personal preference rather than comparing to any particular style definition, especially as from the picture you can see that they cover a range of colours and interpretations of "Oktoberfest" lager.


Our initial rankings were:

Dave
  1. Goose Island
  2. Ayinger
  3. Sierra Nevada
  4. Samuel Adams
Al
  1. Sierra Nevada
  2. Ayinger
  3. Samuel Adams
  4. Goose Island
Other than both having Ayinger as our second favourite, everything else was up in the air. Dave had Goose Island ahead on the basis that it was not as interesting a beer as Ayinger and Sierra Nevada and therefore something he was likely to down plenty of in a sitting, I had it last because I thought it was not as interesting as the others and I would get bored after a couple, same justification, different outcomes.

We both agreed that Ayinger was a really complex, interesting beer, very different from the American beers, but excellent drinking. The question was whether we would want to drink it by the litre? Both of us said that a couple of pints would be fine, but eventually we would end up with palette fatigue.

Between us I think we have probably drunk well in excess of 120 bottles of this year's Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, and we both love it. I put it first because it would be something I could drink plenty of, and have done so far this year, without getting bored. Dave put it just behind Ayinger because Ayinger was more interesting and if he was just having a couple then he would go for the Ayinger.

It sounds terrible to say, but both of us thought Samuel Adams was just "meh". It's ok, not terrible interesting, not terrible, but also not something either of us would happily down a 12 pack of together on the deck, the sweetness we agreed was one dimensional.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, we asked our respective wives to try our first choices and let us know their thoughts, but Ali preferred the Goose Island, and Mrs V the Sierra Nevada. Birds of a feather and all that jazz.

So we decided to have a policy of horses for courses. If you are having a session and don't want to think too much about the beer you are drinking, go for the Goose Island. If you are having a session and want a beer that doesn't just fade into the background, go for the Sierra Nevada.

While Sam Adams will not likely make another appearance in my fridge this year, the Ayinger most certainly will as I found that I really enjoyed it, even though it was much more "old school" m?rzen than the moodern, paler, Oktoberfest lager styles. I can imagine using it in many late autumn and winter recipes, especially for soaking fruit for a cake, or in my roasted garlic and onion jam recipe that I plan to make again soon.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Old Friends: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

What could be a more appropriate way to mark my 1000th post on Fuggled, than to write about one of the earliest American craft beers that I remember drinking? I say 1000th post with some qualification however, as there have been 1066 posts prior to this, it's just that 67 of them were guest posts or Brewer of the Week interviews where most of the content was provided by someone else, so I am not counting them.

There was a time when Samuel Adams Boston Lager was a reliable go to beer when the place I was in had nothing better on offer, whether that be a store or a restaurant. Given the changes that having 12 month old twin sons have wrought, I hadn't drunk it in an age, we rarely go to restaurants any more, and I am brewing more of my own beer than buying stuff at the moment. Still, Boston Lager would sit on the shelves like an old flame winking seductively, and this weekend I succumbed to the temptation and bought a couple of bottles.


Pouring the two bottles into my Purkmistr half litre mug, one of my favourite glasses, it was a delightful shade of light copper or amber, with a firmish white head that lingered for a while, and no visible carbonation. Definitely still looked the part. The aroma was mainly a bready malt quality, with a bit of light toffee sweetness, balanced with grassy hops that danced merrily into floral territory as well.


Leaving behind the olfactory delights, tastewise the bready thing was there in the drinking, with a toasty edge, toast that had been schmeered with dulce de leche that is, and then there was something you hadn't noticed before, a bitterness that seemed out of place, like singed sugar, acrid, distracting, not something you remember, absence may have made the heart grow fonder.


The sugary sweetness definitely dominated here, and given the fact that I am very regular lager drinker a couple of things were missing, bitterness and the clean snap of a well lagered beer. So entirely absent were they that the beer was basically unpalatably sweet and syrupy. I don't remember Boston Lager being so entirely meh, perhaps my tastes have changed? Perhaps the beer was been "re-formulated" to make it "smoother" (brewery code for making a beer bland as all hell by ditching the bittering hops)? Whatever it was, the daliance was a disappointment, and not one I plan to repeat again any time in the near future.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Helles Yeah!

I've not been to South Street as much as usual of late, for one very simple reason, they haven't had the magnificent My Personal Helles on tap for a few weeks now. That's not a slight on their other beers, Mitch does a great job with them, it's just that the helles is my go to beer, and when the go to is gone, I get a dose of the wandering eye. Part of my particular brand of wandering eye it to pay closer attention to what is available in bottles and cans in the show (whilst lamenting the storing of lagers at room temperature and the general oldness of much of a shop's 'craft' beer selection). Browsing the racks at our local Wegman's a few weeks ago it struck me just how many breweries are bringing out helles lagers these days, so I figured I'd gather a clutch and give em a bash...


First out of the fridge was Southern Tier's Why The Helles Not? As is obvious from the picture, the liquid is a lovely clear golden colour, topped with a decent inch or so of rocky white head, which lingered for the duration of the 4 or 5 mouthfuls it took to drink. Thankfully the beer wasn't overly fizzy, though there was a reasonable amount of carbonation. Breathing in the aroma deeply, I was hit by a distinct cereal crackeriness, think Carr's Water Biscuits and you're not far wrong, now sprinkle some fresh lemongrass onto said water biscuit, you see where this is going. In the taste department, we're clearly in solid helles territory, bready malt to the fore, with that lemony bite that I associate with central European hops, beautifully balanced and very tasty. This is the kind of beer that I could happily down pint after pint of, and at only 4.6% so very close to being a session beer, it is simple but not simplistic, if that makes sense.


Up next was Weekend Lager from Alewerks Brewing, just down the road in Williamsburg, and sporting a very elegant rebrand too. Weekend Lager was distinctly paler than the Southern Tier beer, and had much less head retention, and less obvious carbonation. Rather than having the aroma of a water biscuit, Weekend Lager had a more dry bread crust thing going on, with a herbal hop note in counterpoint, and a very slight touch of earthiness that put asparagus in my brain. As for the taste, we're back to the Carr's Water Biscuits and lemongrass ballpark, but with just a miserly schmeer of butter chucked in for fun. Again an enjoyable beer, other than that odd vegetal/asparagus thing that I couldn't quite pin down, but will require me buying more of the beer for investigative purposes you understand. A bit stronger than the Southern Tier one at 4.8%, but still well within pintable territory.


I really ummed and ahhed about whether to put Samuel Adams Fresh As Helles in the basket, mainly because it has added orange blossom 'and natural flavors', and I wasn't sure I wanted a flavour tainted helles. Clearly though, I relented. Looks wise it's pretty much on the spot, golden, a half inch of white foam that leaves traces of lacing all the way down the glass. The aroma though was very different from the other two, gone was the crackers and lemongrass, come was orange peel, marmelade and a soft toffee note. Tastewise was again a departure from what I had expected, this was clearly toasty rather than cerealy, and the orange blossom (I assume) was very noticeable, but in a thin marmelade kind of way that left a slighty artificial aftertaste. Oh dear. For the first time in many years I didn't finish the bottle, it was too slick on the tongue and just generally bleurgh. Nope, won't be doing that one again.


Now, if South Street could just hurry up and get My Personal Helles back on tap, I will be a happier camper this summer.....

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Feast of Oktober

It seems at the moment that every brewer and his uncle is having an Oktoberfest celebration, whether or not said brewer regularly makes bottom fermented beers in the German style (and they say craft beer isn't marketing driven!).

Being a fan of the lager arts, and not wanting to limit my Oktoberfest drinking to Sierra Nevada, I gathered together 7 bottles of American made versions of the 'style' to try in a blind tasting. As ever I was ably assisted by the lovely Mrs V, and her willingness to traipse up the stairs when I had finished each glass of beer is much appreciated.

The beers for this little taste off were:
Such a delightful little lineup...


Using, as ever, a slightly modified version the Cyclops beer evaluation method, here's my findings.


Beer A
  • Sight: rich copper, ivory head, dissipates quickly
  • Smell: general sweetness, touch corny, wood and spice
  • Taste: bready, touch of burnt toast, clean finish
  • Bitter: 2.5/5
  • Sweet: 2/5
Overall well balanced though on the thin side, nothing to really hunt out.


Beer B
  • Sight: orange, large off-white head, slight haze
  • Smell: some toffee, baking bread, floral
  • Taste: sweet juicy malt, herbal hob bite
  • Bitter: 2/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Ever so slightly boozy/hot, mouthfeel was nice and full, and slightly creamy, a bit on the too sweet side.


Beer C
  • Sight: rich golden, white head
  • Smell: bready, biscuits, trace of spice
  • Taste: sweet toffee, pretzels, earthy hops
  • Bitter: 3/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Nicely balanced, good clean dry finish, clearly well made and nicely integrated.


Beer D
  • Sight: gold, voluminous white head that lingers
  • Smell: grainy, light lemon and herbal hops, almost like autumn leaves
  • Taste: bready malt, sweet but not in a caramel way, firm bitterness
  • Bitter: 3/5
  • Sweet: 2.5/5
Slightly creamy mouthfeel, but firm bitterness cleans that right up, very nice beer.


Beer E
  • Sight: light red, smallish off white head
  • Smell: syrupy caramel
  • Taste: heavy caramel, dark toast
  • Bitter: 2/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Full bodied and a touch cloying, really needs a hop bite, finish not as clean as expected.


Beer F
  • Sight: deep orange, off white lingering head
  • Smell: raw wort, weetabix topped with caramel sauce
  • Taste: Very sweet, sickly caramel/syrup dominates
  • Bitter: 1/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Tasted undercooked, like the raw dough in the middle of an underdone loaf, barely any noticeable hops.


Beer G
  • Sight: rich copper, small, stable, white head
  • Smell: lots of toffee and bread, spicy hop notes
  • Taste: cereal, caramel, like dulce de leche on toast
  • Bitter: 1.5/5
  • Sweet: 2.5/5
Sweet, warming, and overall nicely balanced, bit too sweet though for my tastes.

Having drunk all seven beers, I ended up with the following rankings:
  1. Beer D
  2. Beer C
  3. Beer B, G
  4. Beer A, E
  5. Beer F
My favourite beer, and here I wasn't actually surprised, was Sierra Nevada's Oktoberfest, with the Ninkasi right on it's coat tails, a sign perhaps that I prefer the more modern pale Oktoberfest style to the older, darker, sweeter variant.

The other beers were:
  • Beer A - Brooklyn
  • Beer B - Port City
  • Beer E - Sam Adams
  • Beer F - Shiner
  • Beer G - Blue Mountain
So there we have it, 7 beers, all bar one that I would drink a pint of, 1 that I would happily drink plenty of, and one that I have been drinking ma?e of.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beers of the Year

In years past I have written multiple 'Review of the Year' posts, across various beer styles, and then colours. This year, I am feeling somewhat lazy and am writing just the one long post highlighting what I think have been the best pale, amber, and dark beers from Central Virginia, the rest of Virginia, the rest of the US, and the rest of the world. So without further ado....
Pale Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Blue Mountain Classic Lager
  • Rest VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest US - Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
  • Rest World - Oakham Citra
Overall Pale Beer of the Year: Oakham Citra, which I wrote about here.


Amber Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
  • Rest VA - Port City Oktoberfest
  • Rest US - Highland Gaelic Ale
  • Rest World - Timothy Taylor Landlord (bottled)
Overall Amber Beer of the Year: Timothy Taylor Landlord, one of the best beers in the world. End of.


Dark Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd No Veto Brown Ale
  • Rest VA - Mad Fox Mason's Mild
  • Rest US - Green Flash Double Stout
  • Rest World - Fullers London Porter
Overall Dark Beer of the Year: Three Notch'd No Veto, probably the beer I drink most of, when not bashing Session 42.


From those three Beers of the Year, this year's Fuggled Champion Beer of the Year is...

Timothy Taylor Landlord. 

I have come to the conclusion that there are insufficient superlatives to describe the bottled version of Landlord. Simply one of the best beers on the planet in my opinion and one which is so insanely difficult to get hold of on this side of the Pond that it astounds me that it never makes the 'Best Beers in the World' lists (oh wait, it's not a boozy hop bomb and/or Belgian). I never tire of drinking it, and in many ways, Session 42 is something of an homage to it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tis the Season?

Mrs V is a teacher, I may have mentioned that before, and her school is currently still on its winter break. As such, and because I am still looking for my next job, we are enjoying a rare opportunity to spend an extended period of time together without the intrusions of the real world. We are starting to make plans for our vegetable garden, talking about where to put the fruit trees and berry bushes, we pop out to the shops, or just lounge around watching films and junk on the tele - once she is back at school though, the TV gets replaced with listening to daytime radio, an infinitely less moronic choice over daytime TV.

Yesterday we headed into the nearest little town to us to mail some parcels and go get some groceries at our local Food Lion, having eaten through the inevitable leftovers of Christmas. As ever, I perused the beer aisle with my usual critical eye - which basically involves walking past all the 'domestic' beer ('domestic' in the US beer scene appears to mean anything made by a brewing conglomerate, you could say 'large and foreign owned' if you were a snarky git) to get to the 'beers I might be interested in drinking' section, even though there are another 27 days before I have a drink again.


In the coolers I saw a beer that to my mind had no place being there, at least not yet. Already, with the 12 days of Christmas still in full swing, were 6 packs and 12 packs of Samuel Adams' Spring seasonal lager, Alpine Spring. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Alpine Spring when it first came out last year, as did Mrs V, but having your Spring seasonal in the shops on January 3rd is simply ridiculous. According to convention here in the US, Winter itself only began 2 weeks ago - convention here is that the equinoxes and solstices  mark the beginning of seasons rather than the midpoint as in Britain. Spring doesn't begin until March 21st and yet already there are Spring beers in the shops?

You can argue until you are blue in the face about the need for retailers to have ever changing product to keep customers interested, or distributors wanting the seasonals ever earlier to get them on the shelves but to be perfectly blunt it often seems that the unseasonal seasonals are a rapacious attempt to fleece the consumer for money by using their desire for something new. Would it really harm business to hold off on the Spring beer until at least the beginning of March, at least then I could actually drink the beer in the appropriate season?

Photo credit: taken from the Samuel Adams website.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Follow the Flagship

Last week Andy Crouch wrote a very interesting piece entitled "Death of the Flagship", looking at how the craft beer industry, for want of a better phrase, seems to be moving away from having a flagship brand to having lots of seasonals and rotations. If you didn't read it already, once you are finished reading this, then head on over.

The reason I mention Andy's post is that I am on my annual holiday in Florida. As I type this post I am looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, watching early risers like Mrs V and I stroll along the shore, and thinking that perhaps I should be sensible today on the laying in the sun front. From a beer perspective, whenever I come to Daytona Beach, I am so glad for the very flagship beers mentioned in Andy's post, Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

On the first afternoon of our week here, we always go to Walmart to stock up on food for the week and I get my first stash of beer. The Daytona Beach Walmart has a pathetic beer selection, let's be honest here. I think they have every conceivable shade of BMC lager and then a token "craft" selection of some Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada, and so that is my choice, and this year it was a case of Pale Ale which worked its way into the fridge.


This is why having flagships like Boston Lager and Pale Ale is important for the industry, because of their near ubiquity, their acceptance within the larger world. Knowing that I can get a good, tasty, well made beer without having to traipse my wife's parents half way round the city is a good thing as far as I am concerned. Perhaps I am just not a genuine beer lover in that I really am not such a zealot as to afflict those around me with needless trips to obscure shops when we are on holiday. Admittedly when it is just Mrs V and I we do go looking for out of the way places, but that's because she is incredibly indulgent of me and should be sainted by whatever secular humanist organisation would hand out such gongs.

Anyway, this week will be spent raising bottles of hoppy American Pale Ale to those pioneers of good tasty beer, long may they prosper!

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Praise of Familiarity

Earlier today I sat down to write a post for this blog and my mind was blank, what should I write about? What would people be interested in? Questions flashed through my mind and no answers came forth to announce themselves. So I had a cup of coffee, read the news on the various websites from which I glean my knowledge of world events, the BBC and the Guardian mostly, caught up on the football gossip, hoping to see that Liverpool had sign Gylfi Sigurdsson.


It's not as if I didn't drink anything over the weekend. I drank mostly homebrew admittedly, mainly my German pilsner, though with some lime witbier and the few remaining ?erny Lev Czech Dark Lagers chucked in for good measure. I worked at the Starr Hill tasting room on Saturday, and yesterday after painting in our new house I sat with a large New Belgium Fat Tire to wash down some Mexican food. There was no beer revelation, nothing new to tickle and tantalise the taste buds, nothing worth taking notes about, though I have practically given up on that particular activity, and you know that's perfectly fine by me.


While it is true that I have never been the kind of person to go chasing half way across town just to try a particular beer, let alone to another country, I wonder if at times I lose sight of that fact that beer is just part of life? Since leaving the Czech Republic almost three years ago I have come to cherish, and miss, the wonderful solid predictability of being able to walk into any of my favourite pubs and be guaranteed a beer I would want to drink. Whether it was ?těpán at Pivovarsky Klub, Zlatá labu? at U Buldoka or even Leffe Bruin at my nearest Potrefená Husa.


Don't get me wrong, I love going to the pub over here, but there is often an element of doubt in my mind as to whether there will be anything I am in the mood for, given the frequent rotation of taps, and the near constant chasing of the new thing, the latest big beer and that which contains the oddest ingredients.


They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but at the same time the familiar is a comfort, something reliable to go back to, knowing that it will be satisfying. Whether it is tankové Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic, London Pride in Southall or Samuel Adams Boston Lager here in the States, there is much to be said for those beers which are familiar, oh so familiar.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tastes of Autumn

I can't remember who tweeted it, but someone the other day asked the question "pumpkin beers or Octoberfest lagers"?

As a committed devotee of all beers decocted, cold fermented and then cold conditioned, the answer is fairly obvious for me, give me a pint of Octoberfest any day of the autumnal week. There is also the fact that I just don't seem able to get along with pumpkin beers.

As for the actual Octoberfest seasonals that I have enjoyed so far this year, Samuel Adams is a solid as ever offering, and Bell's Octoberfest is a serious candidate for my lager of the year. Big juicy caramel malts and a dose of background bitterness for balance make this an insanely easy beer to drink. While at 5.5% abv it is no session beer (regardless of what the marketing mandarins have written on the website), it is a delicious brew for sitting at a trestle table with buxom wenchie types bringing you bratwurst laden with lashings of mustard. I only have about 30 more bottles of beer to drink before my self-imposed ban on buying bottled beer is finished with, once that is done with I can see this filling some of the available space.


There is of course more to autumnal drinking than Octoberfest and pumpkin beers, for this is the season when brown ale, whether "nut" or otherwise, makes its appearance. Sierra Nevada's Tumbler is a favourite of mine, and not just because they call it an "Autumn Brown Ale" rather than a "Fall Brown Ale", smooth, silken and luscious to drink. Speaking of Nut Brown Ale, it is around this time of year that I see the eponymous Samuel Smiths winking from the fridge and indulge.

Autumn, don't you just love it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Truth of Session Culture Is Out There

There is a bar not more than 7 minutes from my flat, well, a grill that has a draft beer selection, but still, it is well within walking distance. I have to confess though that I have never gone to said bar and grill, even though I have driven by it many a time on the way to Beer Run or Court Square Tavern, or just going to the same strip mall to get Chinese take away. All I know about this bar is the name, The Lazy Parrot, it's reputation and the fact that it is opening a barbecue area in the near future. I guess they must be doing something right then.

I was mulling this over the other day when in the middle of a twitterlogue about session beer - you know the kind of thing, what is the appropriate abv level for session beer in the USA (for the record, I agree with Lew Bryson that 4.5% is acceptable, but then I am a cultural traitor extraordinaire). Suddenly it hit me, taking Lew's definition of session beer, that the USA has a vibrant, thriving session beer culture, it's just that the self-appointed arbiters of taste chose to ignore it because it doesn't fit with their narrative.

More than 50% of beer sold in the US is "light lager", along the lines of Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light, all three of which have an abv of 4.2%, just 0.2% shy of Pilsner Urquell's 4.4% but streets away in terms of bitterness. Clearly then, there is a market for session beer, there are drinkers out there who want a low alcohol brew which they can enjoy several of in the pub before heading home.

This is not to suggest that I am about to start drinking mass produced light lager on a regular basis, but it does point to a fact which seems to get lost in all the macho posturing of much of the craft beer world - people like to drink beer, in pubs, with friends over a period of time. I would suggest however that if craft beer is to truly worry the big boys, then perhaps with the ever growing awareness and acceptance of craft beer, it is time to take the fight to their doorstep. Sam Adams Light is an interesting step in that direction and at 4.1% abv is ideally set to challenge the more established light lager brands (and in my opinion a darned sight tastier and I will be doing my utmost to convert my father-in-law to it). By the way, I am not convinced that the big boys are worried, after all everyone has their price and the big boys have the money to buy independent breweries.

This also got me thinking about how easily we generalise, assuming that our experiences and preferences are the norm and can thus be extrapolated out to all of the society within which we live. Coming back to the comment about there being no market for low strength beer in America, the figures clearly show otherwise. I have more time for a brewery that says something along the lines of "that's not the market we are targetting", but to claim the absence of a market at all is to misunderstand the reality of the market as a whole.

Call it what you will, I am happy with the term session beer for sub 4.5% beers, the fact remains that demand is out there for lower than average strength beers, which people want to sit in the pub and drink with their friends over a longer period of time. Clearly the likes of Samuel Adams and Devils Backbone are listening, and responding with tasty beers that are low in alcohol and insanely drinkable (if you are in the area get down to Devils Backbone and try the Ale of Fergus while it lasts), here's hoping for more to catch on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Lingering Lager Longing

I am sure I have mentioned this before, I have been on something of a lager kick of late. I am sure this is, in part, a consequence of my continuing mission to discover well made Pilsners in America, but also partly because I just fancy nice, clean, crisp beer at the moment.

As I have no doubt mentioned, ad nauseum, my favourite beer at the moment is Devils Backbone's beautiful Vienna lager, another growler of which was happily imbibed with abandon on Saturday night. On Saturday afternoon, Mrs V and I met with Eric from Relentless Thirst and his good lady other half, for a few pints and lunch at the Legend Brewing Company in Richmond. We were in Richmond as Mrs V had spent the morning winning a gold medal at a rowing regatta and needed liquid refreshment in the afternoon. Legend have a few lagers in their range, including a decent enough Pilsner, though at 6% abv it is significantly more potent than regular pilsners. On Saturday though, I was sticking to their run of the mill lager, called in a fit of creative mania, Legend Lager, which is clean, tasty and refreshing - just what you need sat on the deck in blazing sun.


I mentioned in passing last week that I had discovered the perfect pub, in Greenville, and part of its appeal was the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner. I had never bothered with any of their beers before, for no particular reason, but again my lager kick was being demanding. It was only later on, as in a couple of days later on, that I learnt that it is in fact a rye pilsner, and hopped with a raft of American hops that almost make me feel bad about enjoying it so much. Needless to say, I will be buying some bottles from Beer Run at some point so I can do a more thorough analysis (that's my new title for getting shedded in the comfort of my armchair "More Thorough Analysis"). Again, the thing that kept me coming back for another pint was it's crisp easy drinkability.

A somewhat surprising addition to the "lagers I rather like" has been Sam Adams Light, a beer that I thought was pretty crap when I first arrived on these shores, perhaps as a result of being a fan of their Boston Lager and post-Czech life lager expectations. Sam Adams Light is one of the selections in the summer variety pack and being loathe to let beer go to waste, unless absolutely necessary, I popped open both bottles while bottling my Virginian Best Bitter (gravity fell a bit short for an APA, so I invented a new style). Again something easy to knock back that doesn't taste like gnat's piss when it gets slightly above 0 degrees Kelvin - I can see me buying a case of it for beachside drinking when I head to Florida for a week next month.

It is plain to see that I like my lagers, as any beer lover should, long may it linger.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

5 Worst Craft Beers I Have Ever Had

Over on Zythophile today, Martyn has written about the worst 5 beers he has ever had, and so in the spirit of blatant theft of ideas, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do likewise. I did actually have a post in my head already, but that can wait for Friday.

In compiling my list, one thing I really wanted to avoid was to slag off beer from the multinationals purely on the basis of them being big mean nasty companies, and so to add a little twist to Martyn's theme I am adding the word "craft", the 5 worst craft beers I have ever had. In order to avoid confusion, my definition of craft is anything not made by a multinational, and also this list is in not particular order.


Pra?sky most u Val?? tmavé

It is very rare that I pour beer down the sink, though it has become more common of late. During one of Mrs Velkyal and I's epic walks through the streets of Prague's beautiful Old Town we stumbled upon a little brewpub. Their pale lager was acceptable, but as we were just having a quick pit stop before continuing our walk along the Vltava and eventually up into Vinohrady, I didn't have a pint of the dark and so bought a bottle for later. When later arrived that evening I settled down to try the dark, it stank. Not just figuratively but literally, it stank of detergent and tasted distinctly of metal, a truly awful beer. In fairness though, the last time I went to the brewpub, with Evan Rail, it was a damned sight better.


Samuel Adams Noble Pils

Another victim of the dreaded Velkyal Pilsner Fundamentalism. Strangely acrid and with flavours all over the place, definitely not a Bohemian Pilsner as I would recognise it. I bought a six pack of it when it first hit the shelves last year, and despite the promising start in the aroma department, it tasted like burnt toast and then became flabby as it warmed up. I am not sure if "flabby" is an accepted term in beer tasting circles, but I am sure you know what I mean. Toward the end it became dull and lifeless, like so many other American made pilsners. In some vain effort to believe that perhaps it would be better this year, I tried it on draft one night in February, and no I won't be doing that again.


Great Divide Belgica

Some things I simply do not understand, astrophysics, the enduring appeal of EastEnders, baseball and the idea of Belgian IPA. I am not a big fan of American IPA in general, liking my beer to have balance rather than subjecting my tongue to grievous bodily harm, and likewise I am not overly keen on the funky weirdness that seems to be par for the course for a "Belgian" style anything. Put them together and you have a beer which I found simply too grim to drink.


Ybor Gold Light

I don't have a picture of this one, but the awfulness of the beer itself has etched itself on to my memory. None of the Ybor Gold beers are even mediocre, but the Light is particularly foul. I am not one of those people to degrade all "Light" beers, having something of a growing soft spot for Sam Adams Light, but Ybor Gold Light is thin, watery, insipid and just plain crap. So crap in fact that sat by the pool in Daytona Beach two summers ago, even my father-in-law, who tends to buy Milwaukee's Best when on holiday, refused to drink more than a mouthful of his bottle.



South Street Brewery Liberation Lager

I wonder on occasion if I am, in reality, a sucker for punishment. I keep wanting to believe that things can't be as bad as my initial impression and so I go and try beers again that disappointed me, usually with the same outcome. South Street is right opposite my office, it opens just at knocking off time, it's beautiful inside, and I very, very rarely darken the door. Their ales are decent enough, and in fact they do a good solid stout, but Liberation Lager is pretty much undrinkable, it starts out ok but about a third of the way down the glass it just goes to shit, lifeless, tasting like wet cardboard and completely unfinishable.

So there we go, craft beer can suck, and there are times when a Michleob or Pilsner Urquell is simply streets ahead of the "competition".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber Beer

Perhaps the worst thing about deciding on my Amber Beer of the Year is quite simply this, where do you draw the line between an amber beer and a brown beer? In the finest traditions of Fuggled, I am just taking an arbitrary decision on a case by case basis - or to put it another way, making it up as I go along. Anyway, my overtaxed assistant is here with the envelope, and the contenders are:
  • Best Virginia Amber - Devils' Backbone Ale of Fergus
  • Best Rest of US Amber - Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Best Rest of the World Amber - Uerige Doppelsticke
I fear I am in danger of being accused of bias toward Devils' Backbone, but what the heck, Jason is making some superb beer down in Wintergreen, and Mrs Velkyal and I have been known to make the 45 minute journey just for a couple of afternoon pints. I can honestly say that I can think of no other brewery on the planet we would do that for, add to the fact that Devils' Backbone is only place near Charlottesville that we have taken every single visitor we have had, and that should tell you something. Ale of Fergus is kind of a hybrid in some ways, a cross between a mild and a 60/- Scottish Ale, though at a highly sessionable 4.4% it would be closer to an 80/-. I have a passion for beers I can put plenty of away, whilst still finding complexity and balance in the beer. Ale of Fergus is such a beer.

Some people, for whatever daft reasons, have a downer on Samuel Adams, claiming they are too big to be a craft brewer, or some other specious nonsense. At the end of the day, they brew some decent beers, the core brands of which are near universally available - sometimes it just sounds like sour grapes. Anyway, I wrote about Boston Lager again back in the summer, whilst on holiday in Daytona Beach and the local shops had a comedically poor beer selection. This is where Boston Lager comes into its own - it is consistent, flavourful, easy drinking. Sure it might not be the sexiest, latest, uber-hopped imperial bourbon barrel aged fad de jour, but it is good beer and I find it always enjoyable.

I love altbier. From the very first drop of Schumacher Alt at a festival in Berlin I have been a devotee of this fine style. Earlier this year I picked up a bottle of Uerige Doppelsticke at Beer Run (if I were doing a pub of the year, it would be Beer Run - which I guess just became a de facto award) and what a revelation it was - smooth, sweet, boozy and simply wonderful - I went back and bought more.

Three very good beers, though obviously only one can be crowned Fuggled Amber beer of 2010, and that is:
  • Uerige Doppelsticke
An excellent example of German brewing excellence, and proof (though plenty more exists) that there is far more to German beer than Pils and hefeweizen - of course, you, good reader, already know that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Bother?

I was well prepared for a week of limited drinking when in Florida last week, not just because previous experiences with Floridian beer had been so comically bad but because I find that I don't drink much beer when it is hot. Of course I had a couple of 6 packs of Boston Lager in the fridge for evenings, and later on in the week I picked up a case of Honey Porter, also from Samuel Adams, which was a decent enough beer. One thing I wasn't prepared for though was a trip to the Daytona location of the .

I was well prepared, notebook, pen, phone camera all sorted, I even remembered to save the pictures I took of the beers in the sample flight, the plan was to write a "
7 Beers, 21 Phrases" type post. I scrapped that plan, evidently, sometime between finishing the sample flight and getting tucked into a cheeseburger. Why scrap the plan? Were the beers bad? Were the pictures hilariously awful?

Well, no, the pictures are ok, nothing special mind. The beers were generally alright, nothing beyond alright that is, and in the case of the Tatonka Stout and the PM Porter barely scraping into the alright status which is of course a mere one step above "meh". Of the seven beers on the flight, just one was decent enough to order a pint of, though I didn't bother. The Brewhouse Blonde is a smooth K?lsch style beer which was nice in the Florida heat. As someone who is not an avowed hop head, I was left wanting more hops in most of the beers available, and in the case of the porter and imperial stout, I wanted more body and oomph as well.

So the beer was uninspiring, that's not a crime at all - after all I am sure that we all know places where the beer doesn't do anything for us. However, I have never before been in a brewpub which sold beer other than it's own, and personally I find that a little disconcerting. Walking into the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was not a set of nice shiny tanks, no copper brewing kettle or any other brewpubesque things you expect to see. The first thing in your line of sight is a bank of tap handles, tap handles for various breweries from around the US.

Perhaps I am just being a little idealistic, but if I owned a brewpub which brewed beer that has won a raft of awards, I wouldn 't be selling mass produced beers at the same time, especially not Bud Light, which I saw a couple of people drinking. From my exceedingly unscientific review of what people were drinking in the vicinity, only 4 or 5 people from about 50 were drinking beer at all. 2 were the Bud Light drinkers, 2 were myself and Mrs Velkyal, while the final drinker was supping on something pale golden. Every one else was drinking soda of some definition, and the place was full, full of fizzy pop drinkers - real fizzy pop that is, not piss poor lager.

This all got me to thinking, a dangerous habit for sure. The food was ok, nothing spectacular, and I can think of several better places in Daytona for food. Why then go to a brewhouse restaurant if you are not going to drink beer? Could it be that going to a brewhouse is the cool thing to do these days, so people go despite not having any intention to try the beer? If that is the case, what does it say about the "craft beer industry" in the US as it becomes more and more mainstream? I left BJ's very disappointed, not because of the beer, but because so few people were actually even trying it, and it seemed as though the restaurant gave patrons as many opportunities not to bother as possible.

Thankfully we stopped in St Augustine on the way back to South Carolina, and as usual we went to Rendezvous for a beer, or two. We discovered that Mrs Velkyal's mother likes raspberry lambic, that Left Hand Milk Stout is pretty damned nice, and that Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale is everything Newkie Brown can but dream about. Back in Columbia itself naturally meant a trip to the Flying Saucer, and yes it is as good as always, and in Amanda, we had an excellent waitress, and revelation beyond revelation, I finally found a pilsner worthy of the name - Victory Braumeister Pils - Saaz.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Samuel Adams to the Rescue!

Once again Mrs Velkyal and I are in Florida, spending a week with her parents at Daytona Beach, lounging around by the pool with my head in a book. At the moment it is , which describes how an evangelical preacher became an atheist, and very interesting it is too. After that I guess I will move on to Bernard Cornwell's "Agincourt", or a collection of Anton Chekov's short stories. Whenever we come down here, beer kind of takes a back seat.

Given that almost every Floridian beer I have had so far has been on the dire side of fairly poor, I am not expecting any revelations on that front. Filling the fridge at the moment, and I am sure to finish the case today, is
Samuel Adams Boston Lager. I know some people over here, for whatever reason, view Sam Adams as no longer being craft beer because their beers are available nationwide. In my world though, when the choice is as hilariously poor as the local Wal-Mart's beer "selection" then Boston Lager becomes a go to beer because it is actually a nice lager, one of the few American lagers I enjoy. Just to highlight how bad the selection was, it came down to a choice between Boston Lager or Michelob AmberBock!

I realise that being in a tourist area of the state means you really get the lowest common denominator when it comes to beer in the shops and restaurants, but even in the store nearest our resort where they have a decent selection of craft beer, they have beer from just one Florida brewery - the piss poor Ybor Gold which I lamented last summer. Thankfully the pub I like to go to in St Augustine on the way back north apparently has a wider selection of Floridian beer to try.

Say what you like about Samuel Adams, and yes I have slagged off some of their beers in the past, but with Boston Lager you have a dream of a beer, flavourful enough to be interesting and easy drinking to boot, and of course when surrounded by people drinking Butt Wiper or Miller Shite then an opportunity to ease people toward beers that actually have something about them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ignoble Pils


I am sure I have said this many a time before, but I have a soft spot for Samuel Adams, despite their various beers that simply don't do it for me, such as Samuel Adams Light. So when I was in Walmart on Sunday morning (best time to go, seriously, if you value your marriage), and saw the latest Spring seasonal from Boston, I just knew it had to be tried, in the hopes that finally there was an American Pilsner worthy of that illustrious name.


According to the waffle on the label, Noble Pils is made with all 5 of the noble hop types, Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt, Hersbrucker and Saaz, as well as a portion of Czech Pilsner Malt. Knowing that the Boston Lager uses a double decoction mash in the process, I expect that Noble Pils uses the same basic process, more of which later. As you can see from the picture, the beer pours a golden straw colour and is topped with a fluffy white head, so far so good. As ever I was using my Lovibond's half pint glass because it is the perfect size for American beer bottles.


Straight from the fridge, the beer smells of lemons, grass and a subtle spiciness, however, as it warms up it begins to smell of a brewery - you know that boiling wort smell. Taste wise, it is very grainy, with a kind of toasty background and a weird soapiness going on (not helped by the smell of lemons), after a while it just becomes dull, almost as though something is not right, once again I am disappointed by an American Pilsner (a contradiction in terms as Plzen is in the Czech Republic).


So the journey continues, the search for a decent pilsner style lager made in America - sure there are lagers made here that I love, Boston Lager for one, Blue Mountain Lager for another, but where is the genuine article? Where is the American made pilsner that is made from Czech Pilsner malt only, with only Saaz hops, in a place with very soft water? Where is the American made pilsner made with a triple decoction mash and lagered for at least 30 days? In talking with a brewer I was told that most American lagers are infusion mashed because they don't need to be decocted, but are they getting enough Maillard reactions?

Perhaps though I should give up drinking beers with the words Pils or Pilsner on the label which don't actually come from Plzen? Perhaps I should focus on the many great ales that are made over here, and save up all my Pilsner drinking for the next time I am back in Prague, sat in Bruska, enjoying tankova Pilsner Urquell?

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Little Light Identity Crisis

There are some beer styles that I simply don't get. Among that less than august list is "light" beer, in its various guises, whether the mass produced Bud Light (for some reason I have the urge to call it Butt Wipe, but there we go) or Samuel Adams Light from one of the bigger "craft brewers", to even the abysmal Ybor Gold Light from the Florida Brewing Company which I have just had the misfortune of sampling on the beach in Daytona - seriously it was so bad even my non-craft beer drinker father-in-law thought it was awful.

Before continuing my rant let me just say that I am 100% behind the Session Beer Project, and thoroughly enjoy beers which are below 4.5%ABV, however I have serious misgivings about the fad for light beers which seem to take up the vast majority of cooler space in supermarket beer aisles, especially when it comes to light beers from the craft brewing section of the industry.

I assume there is a market for such beers or people like the Boston Beer Company wouldn't be muscling in on the act, but I fear that products such as Samuel Adams Light takes away from the core Boston Lager brand - which in my world is up there with the finest of Czech lagers and will most likely assume the status of permanent lager in my cellar. However, the very thing that created a national demand for beers such as Samuel Adams is the very thing that the company should cling to, it is different from the mainstream in that it is a flavourful quality lager, by comparison the Samuel Adams Light is an abberation.

Say yes to session beer, but session beer is so much more than just a light lager with nothing going for it other than a low ABV.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Samuel Adams - Brewmaster's Collection

Craft beer is not always synonymous with small breweries, I for one would include Budvar in my world of craft brewers simply because they use traditional ingredients and continue to make their, oh so lovely, lager traditionally, without cutting costs and corners by using maltose syrup or that nebulous ingredient in Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus, "hop products". Likewise in the UK is a craft brewer, and here in the US companies like the Boston Beer Company, who trade under the brand name Samuel Adams, would also qualify despite the fact that their beers are readily available and for all intents and purposes mass produced.

I have something of a soft spot for Samuel Adams because their Summer Ale was the first beer I had in the USA when I first came in 2007, it was also the first beer I had after 6 months abstinence in an attempt to lose weight (I lost 50lbs eventually, although I have regained a little of that, such is the price to pay for a love of beer). After a 9 hour flight from Prague to Atlanta, and then the short hop to Columbia, not to mention the fact that our bags where held back due to some lunatic driving his burning Jeep into Glasgow airport, it hit the nail right on the head. Thus, one of my aims once Mrs Velkyal and I arrived here to stay was to get to grips with the entire Samuel Adams line, a task which may take a while of course, however I made a start by picking up a boxed containing the following beers:

First up was the Blackberry Witbier, made with Oregon blackberries according to the blurb on the neck label, and a fairly new addition to the product line apparently. It certainly pours like a witbier, cloudy amber, slightly off-white head which did a vanishing trick fairly sharpish. This has lots of fruity flavours going on, the nose was like mixed fruit jam, while tastewise some sweet maltiness underlay the fruit flavours again. There was some spice, although I would like to have more as I think the fruit overpowers it and about half way down the glass it becomes boring and even flaccid.

On to the Irish Red then, a style I am planning to brew myself once in Virginia (actually I am planning to cross an Irish Red with an India Pale Ale and make an India Red Ale with lots of C-hop flavours!). Can you guess what colour it was, yes that's right, it was red, and the head was a big fluffy ivory affair. Caramel and cocoa dominated the nose, with some subtle earthy aftertones - my brain immediately said English hops, and thankfully the neck label said East Kent Goldings! The beer itself is quite sweet, with lots of syrupy caramel flavours, which put me in mind of a slightly thinner version of London Pride - which is never a bad thing in my world.

Last up and the most anticipated was the Black Lager, I was eager to see whether this would be a more Bohemian or German interpretation of the dark lager genre. It pours a very dark red with a tan head, and even on popping open the bottle their is a rush of roasted smells, with a light touch of coffee in the background. The roasted theme continues in the drinking, bittersweet and with more than a hint of coffee, with touches of burnt sugar and caramel ending in a gentle dry finish. Yup it's a schwarzbier for sure, and a mighty fine one at that.

For me the Blackberry Witbier does nothing, that is not to say it is a bad beer per se, just that it doesn't rock my boat. The Irish Red is a nice smooth ale which will no doubt make the occasional appearance in the fridge, although given that Irish Red is a style I haven't explored much it will need trying alongside others to get a handle on it properly. The Black Lager will no doubt become a regular in the cellar, it really is lovely and I can imagine that it would be very useful in some of my cooking ideas floating around my brain.

With another 8 styles in the Brewmaster's Collection, not to mention the very nice Boston Lager, I am fairly sure I will be returning time and again to Samuel Adams.

Friday, July 3, 2009

First Impressions - Supermarkets

I will admit it openly and unashamedly, I am a fan of American supermarkets, and have been since the first time I wandered around a fruit and veg section and saw the produce being automatically sprayed with water, to a soundtrack of thunder!

In the last couple of days we have been to a Walmart and a Kroger in Columbia and like a good homing pigeon I went straight to the beer aisle to see what was there. At Kroger there was a huge selection of brands that I already recognised; Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Ice and the like. There were however a few interesting beers:
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Sam Adams Boston Lager
  • Sam Adams Summer Ale - the first beer I tried last time I came to the States
  • Sam Adams Light
  • Tap Room 21 Pale Ale
  • Tap Room 21 Amber Ale
  • Tap Room 21 Lager
Nestled however in a corner of the beer aisle was a little box of golden treasure, a six pack of Budvar, which will hopefully still be there later today, when I pop by. At Walmart it was a similar story, although they also had a variety pack from Sam Adams, and no Budvar. I walked out of Walmart with a case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the Sam Adams variety pack and several bemused looks from people with trolleys loaded with Bud Light.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Week on the Wagon

Every so often I feel the need to not drink for a little while, usually a week or so. I do this because in the last 18 months I have gone from being Much-Too-Velky Al to my present incarnation of just Velky Al. Compared to this time 2 years ago I am about 50lbs lighter (that's almost 23kg for our metric friends), and I have no ambition to go back to the state I was in then. It was also around this time that I got fed up with drinking vast qualities of industrial lager, so I adopted a new healthy eating regime, took a bit more exercise and for 6 straight months didn't touch beer at all.

My first beer after the 6 months were up was a Samuel Adams Boston Lager, which I had in Columbia, South Carolina after flying there with Mrs Velkyal to spend 5 weeks visiting her family in the States. It was nectar, not just because I hadn't had a beer in so long, not just because the flight had been long and boring - and our bags were delayed because of the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport - it also happened to be a damned fine pint.

So this week in the wake of Slunce ve Skle I decided to take another of my weeks off and not drink again until Monday's tasting of Kocour ales at Pivovarsky D?m. I think these weeks off also help to heighten my appreciation of the beers I drink, and make me want to value each beer rather than chucking some swill down my throat on a Friday night to get drunk. That is, I think, my paradox - I drink far less than I used to, but drink far better than I ever have.

Yes I am looking forward to having some IPA on Monday, and when you live in the Czech Republic any opportunity to have IPA must be grasped, but I have enjoyed my week on the wagon.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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