Showing posts with label southern tier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label southern tier. Show all posts

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 31, 2012

Once You Go Black

Thankfully in this part of Virginia, Hurricane Sandy was something of a damp squib, with damp being the operative word. It rained for the best part of 36 hours but the winds never really got much above strong breeze (that's force 6 to those of us used to the Beaufort scale). Either through design or luck we didn't lose our electricity (unlike many, it seems, our power lines are underground and not prone to trees falling on them). All in all, I am grateful to have been spared the brutality experienced further north, and I hope all my readers in that part of the world are OK.

On a whim last night Mrs Velkyal and I decided that it was about time we used our wood fire in anger, rather than just being a mildly diverting centrepiece to the main room upstairs. Having traipsed out to the shops, after discovering my car battery to be flat as I had left the headlamps on over the weekend, we lit our first fire using some compressed sawdust, nut shell and wax thing called a '2 Hour Fire Log'. With a fire burning in the hearth, I was overcome with an urge for something dark, a porter or stout perhaps, and just so happened to have this in the fridge:


I was introduced to this beer a few weeks ago by our fantastic next door neighbours, who have a small farm called , and it was love at first sip. At 8.8% this is something of a bruising stout, but I love it (say it quietly but Guinness FES may have some competition for my affections), great dollops of chocolate, as if some perverse Willy Wonka had blended Dairy Milk with 85% cocoa dark chocolate from Ecuador and a trace of roasted coffee to just take away any excessive sweetness. As much as I love this beer, and it will make fairly regular appearances in the cellar over the course of the winter, it is definitely not a 'drink ten pints and stumble home' affair, but one, sat next to the fire, reading a book? Perfect.


However, me being me, having let the last lascivious drops of Double Stout find their way down my throat, had the urge for another beer....what to bring up from the cellar...? How about this?


Yes, that would do the trick. Unlike the Double Stout, this is a beer I know well and love to break out when it is colder than an polar bear's bum. There is something about Old Engine Oil that is deeply entrancing, whether it is the deep darkness or the lingering dry roastiness of the beer or the fact that 6% you can justify a full pint and then drink it slowly and enjoy the beer as it warms, both literally and figuratively. The only regret I had was that the fire in the background was not in some fine drinking establishment, preferably with one of the autumn rugby matches on the tele...


I can't remember what actually was on the tele, not being a big watcher thereof, but eventually Mrs V and I adjourned to the downstairs living room of our house, turned on the oil radiator and I cracked open a Southern Tier 2X Stout, no pictures, no notes, just a lovely, strong milk stout.

Drink enough of these beers and my favourite line from White Chicks becomes gospel truth...



...because you'll be legless.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Pumpkins and Pilsners

Mrs Velkyal seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone yesterday - thankfully we have Vonage and so pay a set monthly fee and can call locally and nationally, as well as to select foreign countries (including all the places my family live) for no additional charge.

During both calls, firstly to her family in South Carolina and then from her best friend, also in South Carolina, a variation on the "what is Al brewing?" question was asked. With Mrs V's family we were talking about mead, as I intend to make a maple and clover mead, using maple syrup and clover honey. With Mrs V's best friend the question was "is Al brewing a pumpkin ale?". To which the answer is no, and up until that point I didn't have any plans to do so, but I felt it necessary to do some research and headed off to the shops to buy some examples of this most American of beers, and so I swung by Beer Run and sampled the Southern Tier Pumking which they had on tap - hmm, not impressed. Too sweet and sickly for my tastes. Eventually though I headed home with all the pumpkin beers I could find, and so here we go on the Cyclops notes....


  • Sight - amber, 1 inch of white head
  • Smell - spicy, acetone, wet cardboard
  • Taste - watery, some spice, fruity
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
Goodness me this is boring stuff. Bland, undertoned and quite simply insipid. If anyone in the Charlottesville area actually likes this stuff, I have 5 more bottles that I am willing to give away for free. If this is the best large brewery in America, then God help us.

  • Sight - copper, thin white head
  • Smell - slight spice, mostly cloves
  • Taste - sweet, like a creme brulee
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
I have a grudging respect for Michelob. This beer, in common with most of their wares, is nothing special but perfectly drinkable and inoffensive. This reminded me of my spiced winter ale, but a lot weaker and more watery.

  • Sight - light amber, almost no head to speak of
  • Smell - very spicy, lots of cinnamon and a slight cideriness
  • Taste - syrupy, caramel and spices
  • Sweet - 3.5/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
This was again very sweet, but not cloyingly though sufficiently sweet to be sickly if you drank more than a few ounces. Not what I would have expected from Dogfish Head.

The pumpkin ales then that I had yesterday would not inspire me to brew my own, though I wonder if the base beer, which would seem to be a generic amber ale, gets overwhelmed in the process? Would a pumpkin stout work better? Or even a pumpkin Belgian sour red? At the moment then I still have no plans to make a beer with pumpkins, I already have plenty of experiments to do.

On a side note, today sees the release of the Pilsner that I helped brew at Devils Backbone. If you are in the area, get along to the pub tonight and try it. You may well run into me filling every growler I have available!

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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