Showing posts with label victory brewery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label victory brewery. Show all posts

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Oktoberfest Crown Challengers - Saranac and Victory

Back before I went to Central Europe for ten days I was wrapping up my Oktoberfest lager challenge. As things stood, the reigning champion was Jospehsbrau Oktoberfest from Trader Joe's, contract brewed by Gordon Biersch. I had two remaining beers in the fridge to pit against our champion, and so the other night having put the twins to bed, I cracked them open, with a bottle of Josephsbrau to compare alongside.


I started off with Saranac's 1888 Oktoberfest, a brewery that for some reason very rarely seems to make it into my fridge. Anyway, on to the Cyclops notes...
  • Sight - crystal clear copper, thin loose head, off white, dissipates very quickly
  • Smell - crackers, very light toffee, very little of anything really
  • Taste - lightly toasty, some grassy hops, some toffee sweetness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Other than looking the part, this beer was a distinct let down. Everything seemed so restrained as to be almost bland and barely worth the effort of finishing the 12oz bottle. It wasn't that it was a technically bad beer, there was little to pick at from a quality control standpoint, it was just plain boring.

Josephsbrau retains its crown...

On then to Victory Brewing and their Festbier.

  • Sight - dark copper, beautifully clear, very little head initially but swirling the glass revives it
  • Smell - sweet toasted grains, caramel, bready, syrup, light lemon note
  • Taste - quite syrupy, sweetness dominates to the exclusion of all else
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Far too sweet for my tastes, really seems to lack the clean crisp bite of a well lagered beer. I had high hopes for this given Victory's lovely Prima Pils, but those hopes were dashed by the overwhelming sweetness of the beer.

Again Josephsbrau sees off the contender, mainly due to its superior balance and drinkability.


Given that Oktoberfest lagers have basically disappeared from the shops, the 2019 Fuggled Oktoberfest of the Year is Josephsbrau Oktoberfest, a victory for contract brewing and traditional German brewing practices!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mmmmm.....Lager.

You know me by now, unless this is your first visit to Fuggled, in which case welcome, I am a lager drinker, nay a lover of lager. Whether it is a Bohemian Pilsner, Schwarzbier, Vienna or Baltic Porter, the lager 'family' of beers is the one I like to spend as much drinking time as possible with. That's not to say that warm fermented beers aren't wonderful as well, but just that beer that takes its own sweet time to be ready is my preferred tipple. Given a bank of taps pouring pale ales in various states of Indianess, stouts, porters, brown ales and wheat beers, if there is a solitary good lager available then I will gladly ignore everything else, even if it is super rare, super strong and aged in gorilla snot barrels.

Without being mean, any brewer can chuck more hops into the kettle, or add spices to secondary and get something that is at least drinkable, but it takes a master brewer to have the confidence to brew a great lager, such as Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, Victory Prima Pils, or Kout na ?umavě 18° (it also takes a master brewer to do the whole extra hops and spice thing well without turning the beer into a flavour mess). We can argue all day about the merits or otherwise of decoction mashing, for the record I think it makes a better beer though I know at least one of my favourite lagers is done with infusion mashing, but one thing is clear, lager is a labour of love, and if a brewery does it properly then it ties up capital and equipment for a very long time.


Take Budvar for example. I remember reading that each batch of their flagship 12° lager takes 102 days to make, from start to finish. Primary fermentation lasts 12 days and then the beer sits in the lagering tanks for 90 days, that's three months, 12 weeks (1 week for each degree of Plato as used to be the norm), just sitting around. Would most people recognise a difference if they brought it out after 60 days? Probably not, but some traditions are worth keeping regardless of what science tells us with numbers.

Brewing, any brewing, is not just about the numbers. Sure your pilsner might have a starting gravity of 1.048 (12° Plato), you might even have gone crazy and hopped it to 40 IBUs but it might still suck because there is too much alcohol from the yeast over attenuating and making it thin in the body (more alcohol is not always a good thing). Perhaps you used some high alpha hops for bittering rather than Saaz all the way through. Perhaps you didn't wait for the lager to tell you when it was ready and just pulled it from the tanks after 28 days regardless. Lager, in  my thoroughly unhumble opinion is not something to be taken lightly, and one of the reasons I brew them so infrequently is simply because I want to do them justice and I don't really have the equipment to do so.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in this part of Virginia, I have access to great local lager whenever I want it, made by brewers who do it properly and rightly win awards as a result.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Session Beer Day Update


If you read the solitary comment to Wednesday's "Get Your Session On!" post, you will know that here in Charlottesville currently has the following sub 5% abv beers available:
  • Guinness Draught (4.3%)
  • Allagash White Ale (5.0%)
  • Smithwick's Ale (4.5%)
  • Harp Lager (5.0%)
  • Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout (4.2%)
  • Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat (4.2%)
  • Devils' Backbone Vienna Lager (4.9%)
After taking up Scott on his offer to email with suggestions, I am happy to say that McGrady's will have the following beers on tap in time for Session Beer Day next Saturday:
In my continuing efforts to see more Williams Brothers beer from Scotland on the taps of Charlottesville, I mentioned to Scott that they do a couple of session beers, mainly Scottish Session at 3.9% and the Scottish Heavy, known at home as the 80/-, which is 4.2%. Also Joker IPA is a phenomenal beer and at 5% isn't quite a session beer, but is a gorgeous beer that I am happy to drink a few pints of.

Scott also mentioned that session beers will be on special that day and there will be live music from 8 to 11, so get along and get your session on!

Hopefully I'll have an update on Beer Run's Session Beer Day offerings at some point, and if anyone knows any other pubs in Charlottesville or the area doing something special to promote session beer, let me know!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fuggled Review of the Year - Dark

A quick look at my RateBeer statistics will tell you that other than pilsners, my preferred beers are stouts and porters. You can then imagine how difficult it has been to whittle down the contenders for the Fuggled Dark Beer of the Year down to just three, but three there are:
In choosing my Virginian dark beer of the year, I decided that I couldn't include the 2 clear favourites of mine over the year, Devils Backbone Morana and their Barclay's London Dark Lager because for the former I designed the recipe, and the latter I helped with the brewing. Thankfully though, Jason has a knack for brewing superb dark beers, both warm and cold fermented. The Ramsey's Export Stout, based on early 20th century recipes and laden with coffee, chocolate and a hefty dose of earthy, spicy hops. It was magnficent.

At the other end of the strength scale is Victory's Donnybrook Stout, at only 3.7%. Still, it is packed with all the classic stout flavours and there are few finer ways to spend an evening than sat in Beer Run indulging in pint after pint of this perfect session beer. I love this beer so much that if it is on tap at Beer Run then I don't even need to order, an imperial pint of it is placed in front of me soon enough.


My first taste of N?rrebro's La Granja Stout was in Prague, when I paid well over the odds for it, but the orchestra of aromas and tastes made it worth every Halí? (1 Czech Crown = 100 Halí?). When I saw it was available at the Greenville Beer Exchange, I made sure I got some. It was still worth every cent, and still hitting all the right notes.

Ah, the agony of choice. Three lovely beers but the winner has to be the one I drink regularly, so the Fuggled Dark Beer of the Year is:
  • Victory Donnybrook Stout
Donnybrook is everything a beer should be in my world, tasty, sessionable and never disappointing, a worthy winner indeed!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Thursday Drop

Mrs Velkyal had some friends round last night in order to put together their costumes for various Halloween bashes this weekend. Seeing the opportunity, I pottered off to Beer Run, book in hand, hoping for a place at the bar to sit with a fine libation, or two, and while away a couple of hours.

Eventually a space opened up at the bar and I perched myself, half pint of Samichlaus 2006 in hand and Hogwaller sandwich in tow - the Hogwaller is simply sandwich heaven, bread, ham, bacon, cheese, mustard, a finer companion for beer is hard to imagine (though maybe some caramelised onions would work in there as well?).

The half pint of Samichlaus lasted about an hour and a half, at 14% it is not something you want to be chugging, and with the minging hangover from a growler of Legend's 15.9% barleywine in mind, I wanted to savour the beer. I didn't take pictures or tasting notes, but it was deliciously boozy, sweet and smooth yet clean as all good lagers are.

This got me thinking about strong beers in general, and a thought flashed through my mind that cold fermented beers are perhaps better suited to extreme strength than their warm fermented cousins. It could of course just be my acknowledged predilection for cold fermented beers in general, but I find powerful lagers so much more pleasurable to drink than boozy ales.

Once that half pint had been supped and savoured, I ratcheted down the gears a fair bit for a pint of Left Hand's Sawtooth, which is one of my favourite British style ales being made in the States, I would love to see it on cask sometime. I rounded off with a pint of Donnybrook Stout from Victory, by now well into a discussion with a guy at the bar about the book I was reading.


A thoroughly pleasant evening finished at home with a pint of Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout from a growler, listening to the Peatbog Faeries on Spotify and with my wee Cairn Terrier at my feet. I can of no better way to spend a Thursday night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Victory!

I honestly can't remember if I mentioned this before, but Charlottesville's best place for beer got rid of Guinness. It used to be the case that Beer Run pretty much always had Guinness on tap, but when they had a keg of O'Hara's Stout on instead for St Patrick's Day I mentioned to the owner that I was fairly certain most people would happily drop 50 cents extra for an O'Hara's instead of Guinness. Whether or not this had any influence on the resultant dropping of Guinness I don't know, whatever the cause, Beer Run now has a rotating stout tap.

As Mrs V was having some friends round for knitting and nattering last night, I took the opportunity to pop along to Beer Run for a couple of pints with a friend, Dan. On the stout tap last night was , which at 3.7% abv is an ideal post work beer, it really was a simple choice and 4 or 5 mouthfuls took care of the first pint, a proper pint that is, you know, the big ones.

I am a big fan of Donnybrook. Sure it might not be the most sexy, extreme beer on the planet, but it is a well put together beer for drinking with mates in the pub, and therefore pretty much perfect. It's the kind of beer that doesn't intrude on the conversation, doesn't butt its way into your thoughts by being tastebud strippingly hoppy, doesn't have you swilling it around trying to identify the aromas.

It is stout, pure and simple. You know what you are getting and can get on with the real reason for going to the pub, socialising.

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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time to Take Your Pils

A recurring theme somewhat of late has been pilsner style lager, and my ongoing efforts to find an American brewed pilsner which is both worthy of the name "pilsner" and bears more than a passing resemblance to those I drank day in and day out in the Czech Republic. Regular readers will no doubt be aware of my misgivings, but I am always happy to try a new beer, and so when a couple of commentators made some recommendations, off I went to the shop to buy more beer for the cellar.


As I have done before, I decided to do a blind tasting, with my beautiful assistant, Mrs Velkyal, in charge of pouring duties. This time though I was drinking beers new to me, although Victory Prima Pils was a beer I had had a couple of times before, though both times in a buzzed fug, so I wanted to get to grips with it when my head was fairly clear.

Pils A (a la Cyclops)

  • Sight - pale golden with a large frothy white head
  • Smell - grass, flowers, lemons
  • Taste - bready maltiness, slight butteriness, could use more hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Pils A was a nice enough beer, the kind of beer which I wouldn't turn my nose up at, but also not one I would rush across town and country to buy. A barbecue beer if you will.

Pils B

  • Sight - straw coloured, decent head which vanishes relatively quickly
  • Smell - grass and flowers
  • Taste - good hoppy bite up front, backed up by a grainy malt body, crisp
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
Another nice, refreshing lager, the hoppy bite was particularly welcome, definitely something I would drink many times again.

Pils C

  • Sight - darker gold, large, tight, white head
  • Smell - very yeasty, baked bread
  • Taste - very fruity, almost like jam, heavy butter
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1.5
Pils C reminded me in many ways of the lagers from Chyně, which while being well made and popular with many back in Prague, simply aren't my thing because of the hefty dose of diacetyl.

As I hadn't had a couple of the beers before, there was no way I was going to try and guess which was what, so I simply ranked them as I preferred them, which turned out to be as follows:
  1. Victory Prima Pils - pils B
  2. Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils - pils A
  3. Lagunitas Pils - pils C
Next up then must be the inevitable taste comparison between the Prima Pils and Little Yella Pils and a few Czech lagers, to be picked up when I am next in South Carolina, next week in fact - in particular Budvar. The journey continues on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Das Problem mit Pils

Don't worry, I am not about to start posting in German, getting pasted I most assuredly can do in that noble language, getting posted, erm no. Call it what you will, pils, pilsner, pilsener (grammatically incorrect but there you go), pale golden lager is the dominant style in the global beer market. As Pivní Filosof has noted this week, the spread of pilsner style lager decimated many older brews as consumers flocked to the new product.

This week I have tried several American pilsners, including Brooklyn Pilsner, Victory Prima Pils and Thomas Creek Dockside Pilsner. Whilst they were all perfectly drinkable lagers, none of them came close to a Kout na ?umavě 10°, and this got me wondering about the difference between German and Bohemian style pilsners, but first a little personal background.

When I abandoned the shores of that Sceptred Isle for a far away land about which I knew nothing, I was a happy ale and stout drinker; the ale being Caffrey's and the stout, well there was only one surely, but I drank the other. Suddenly there is no Murphy's, that being the other, and the need for Guinness would have meant frequenting an Oirish pub filled with Brits trying to live their British life in foreign lands, which even after several years they would probably still know nothing. I don't think I ever had a Caffrey's, although there is a bar of that name on the Old Town Square. When in Rome syndrome kicked in and before you know it I am a fan of Velkopopovicky Kozel and Bohemian pilsners in general.

Here is I think the crux of my problem with pils in America so far, they tend more to the German pilsner style - which from my understanding of the BJCP guidelines is thinner in body, and drier in the finish when compared to the complex, malty, floral wonder that is Bohemian pilsner. This is of course to be expected if what I reading in Ambitious Brew is correct, and the American lager brewing industry of the 19th century was essentially German in character - though as with anything from that period in time, nothing is simple and clear cut.

Naturally, this means that more research is required. I will have to hunt out some Bohemian style pilsners made here, the medal winners at the Great American Beer Festival for example, and compare them against Budvar, as well as trying some well regarded German pilsners as a control group for my understanding of the American versions. In the time being though, it is time to spend a week in Florida converting my father-in-law to the delights of pale ale, most likely Sierra Nevada.

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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