Tasting (or so I thought): September 3, 2015 Beer # 796 & 797
A Pair of Summer Wheat offerings
A friend says that he avoids bringing beer to my house and will bring wine instead. He says it would be like trying to buy paint brushes for Picasso. I appreciate the compliment – at least I think its a compliment. I prefer to share my beer with my guests. While the two Summer Wheat suspects sitting in my sink weren’t meant for me – they were left overs from a dinner party. Someone brought them to enjoy and I hope they enjoyed the company more than the beer.
I haven’t had either Summer Wheat, here it goes.
Really is watery and light on many flavors. I get an off banana yeasty flavor and cardboard. In a light but offensive way there is some face twisting bitterness. Nothing discernible or pleasant. Which beer am I talking about? Both. Oddly they are nearly identical in a very bad way. Each earns 59 points.
I’m a beer trader but I’m still a little bit on the fence on the right or wrong of it all. On the wrong side, rare beer has widely become a trading chip and it isn’t uncommon in traders to buy beer solely for its trade value. Yes, I feel a little guilt as my collecting and trading actions may very well keep other locals from actually drinking the beer. Right or wrong, I brush off the guilt by accepting that the competition for rare beer among enthusiasts, collectors or traders is a win some, lose some proposition. For me, the guilt washes away as I visualize the memory of someone else taking that last four-pack of Epitome right in front of me just moments after missing out on the last Bourbon County Vanilla Rye on Black Friday. I just chalk it up to scoring the next time – because there certainly will be a next time.
On the positive side, there are so many craft beers that have limited distribution that the trading takes on the same feel as someone that is a collector of rare items. Frankly, I look at this blog as my collection. I can’t save a bottle of beer forever but I can certainly catalog it. There is a certain thrill in acquiring the difficult to find.
Along with acquiring the trophies for the collection comes the opportunity to try some other limited quantity or lesser known beer that come in the form of beer trading extras. These are “throw-ins” to trades and are typically beer that wouldn’t be found in your trade partner’s state. They aren’t meant to even out deals, it’s just the generosity of the trade partners and it adds to the Christmas morning feel of receiving a package.
The following are a beer trading extras that I’ve received over the last month or so…
Valor – a Red Ale by 14th Star Brewing, Saint Albans, Vermont Tasting: April 9, 2015 Style: Red Ale Beer #: 724 ABV: 5.4%
Came as a bonus in a trade in which I acquired four fresh Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine. I like that a portion of the proceeds collected in the sale of this beer go to help Purple Heart Reunited. This organization works to return medals of valor to servicemen.
Delivers on the advertised happiness. IBU is listed as 40 (light) and that seems about right. Bitterness might be a little clunky but it delivers a nice mellow caramel. Has its flaws but a really an easy drinking beer. I’ll put Valor at 85 points.
Bourbon Barrel Stout Clay Street Series BBC by Bluegrass Brewing
Acquired as another beer trading extras in a deal that saw me acquire Bo & Luke by Against the Grain. This may very well be the worst beer I’ve ever had. I think it’s infected as I’m sure the bourbon barrel didn’t lend the cider and musty basement flavors. Drain pour – 59 points.
Woodsmaster by Short’s Brewing
Tasting: April 9, 2015 Style: Ale Beer #: 726 ABV: 9.5%
This one came as a bonus in a trade that saw a couple of other Kuhnhenn legends (4D and Solstice) come back my way. The unfortunate thing is that as a bonus beer, I can’t complain that this bottle is just about six months old. I’m sure the hop dropped out of it as this bottle comes across sweet and boozy hot with only some residual hop resin. On the plus side, I like a sweet boozy IPA. I’ll peg Trippa at a pleasant 90 points.
Spotted Cow by New Glarus
Tasting: April 11, 2015 Style: Cream Ale Beer #: 728 ABV: 4.8%
Since I’m writing about the give and take of bonus beer – here’s a beer that I included as a bonus in my last trade. High Point Brewing has been making world class German-style beer for about twenty years and they release beer under the brand – Ramstein. They are located about two miles from house and these bottles don’t wander very far from the brewery. It is as local as a local bonus gets. This bottle of Winter Wheat was given a perfect score by the Alstrom Brothers, founders of the Beer Advocate website.
Mellow roasted flavors over some mild cocoa. Some black cherry and blackberry notes as well. Very smooth and drinkable and the lack of any heat makes the 9.5% alcohol a dangerous factor. I have to admit I was surprised as the style isn’t in my wheelhouse but a very solid 89 from yours truly.
Tasting: June 4 – 5, 2013 Style: Lager, Fruit Beer #:468, 469 & 470
Craft or Crafty
Anheuser Busch (InBev) and Miller Coors account for about 80% of all the beer consumed in the United States. In 2011, Anheuser Busch led the way with 49%, followed by Miller Coors at 29%. Sales of their labels are sagging while sales in the craft beer segment are soaring. Don’t think that they haven’t noticed and want to muscle their way into this highly profitable segment. AB InBev bought out craft beer legend Goose Island last year and Miller Coors formed Tenth & Blake and slid Henry Weinhardt’s, Leinenkugel’s and Batch 19 under the umbrella. I read a story yesterday that larger craft brewers are suspicious of firms that have offered money for capital.
The mega-brewery entry in the craft beer segment has angered quite a few small brewers and the new mantra “craft or crafty” is heard throughout the craft beer community. Artisan brewers bemoan that the giants are acting more like wolves in sheep’s clothing and trying to sell unimaginative beer under what appears to be craft beer labels. Usually one of the more outspoken figures in craft beer is Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing Company and recently, Koch said, “Craft brewers are creative. We don’t follow trends — we create them. We specifically went against the mass-homogenized, corporatized business model. When that very empire, the multinational conglomerate, starts giving the impression to unsuspecting consumers that they’re a part of our world, of course that’s offensive”.
Although I can see Koch’s point and can see the risks involved. At one time, the craft beer attitude was that rising tides lifts all boats. To me, craft brewers certainly don’t have the resources to spend on promotion and if the ads promoting “crafty” beers like Henry Weinhardt’s pushes the beer zombies into trying something new – it could be a gateway to the rungs of quality above.
Here’s a sampling from the “crafty” giants.
First up is AB InBev (Anheuser Busch or Budweiser to you and I) Budweiser Black Crown. The first thing I notice on the label right at the top is that this beer is 6.0% ABV. A modest uptick from the 5.0% standard Budweiser. According to their website this beer is a result of consumer feedback. This one doesn’t stray far from their original audience, but certainly doesn’t go far enough to attract craft beer attention. Very light in flavor. Still has that signature funky mix of yeast, off bitterness and crackerish grain. I’ll put it at 67 points.
While Budweiser Black Crown does not disguise its Budweiser connection, my second sampling is a stealth AB InBev entry – Shock Top. A wheat-based Belgian-styled beer, this one adds cider, spice and honeycrisp apple flavoring. Cloudy and light with a sweet bubblegum nose. Mouthfeel is fizzy. The apple flavor is phony, overpowering and leaves a foul aftertaste – plasticky. Can’t wait to pour this down the drain – 59 points
Last of the trio is Henry Weinhardt’s Private Reserve. This brewery dates back to the 1850’s in the pacific northwest. They tried to rebrand as a quality craft beer but failed and the brand is now part of the Tenth and Blake stable operated by Miller Coors. They note the hops are from the latitude designation the 44th parallel, Hops grow in Oregon, cherries grow in Michigan and grapes grow in Burgundy all along the 44th parallel. Only 4.8% ABV and a mild IBU of just 15. Pours a straw color with flavors of funky yeast, biscuity grains, off-sweetness and funky finish. Easily distinguishable as a craft beer poser – 62 points.
Tasting: December 8, 2012 Style: Cuvee (Belgian Strong and Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout)
Kane Three Hundred Sixty Five
I can’t help but notice the cork & cage bottles in the beer aisle. They just scream out, “Hey, something special here”! In this case, it’s the celebration of the first anniversary of New Jersey’s own Kane Brewing out of Ocean Township. I’m totally interested in this beer — and for quite selfish reasons. I have a jealousy of other states that have have events like “Kate the Great Day”; “Darkness Day”; “Dark Lord Day”‘ and “Sexual Chocolate Day”. I know New Jersey gets a lot of awesome beer on our shelves and we have some very good breweries – but we just don’t have that one that would compare with the previous examples. But, let me not get ahead of myself as I’ve been burned by judging books by their covers or beer by their bottles.
This one is interesting. Kane has what they call a two-vessel brewhouse. They distribute at the shore and into northern New Jersey. This offering is a cuvee that spans their first year. It seems like the first project was to brew an imperial stout and age that beer in a used bourbon barrel for the following year. This past August, they brewed a Belgian Quad (4x strength). They then created this beer with a ratio of 30% of the bourbon barrel aged stout and 70% of the Belgian quad. The net result is an 11.2% ABV – dark ale.
I can’t go very far with this assessment as Kane Three Hundred Sixty Five may be infected as it has gone somewhat sour. Vinegar and sour cherry flavor up front — not what I should expect. Not much in the way of any roasted flavors. I’m sorry to say that this is $14 going down the drain…as is, it receives my bottom score of 59 points. How did this happen? This is a bottle conditioned beer, which means that a small amount of yeast is added to the bottle to further ferment the beer. Unfortunately, there are times when bacteria make their way into the bottle. Could be one bottle — could be all the bottles. The bacteria are faster than yeast and eat the sugars ahead of the yeast and leave a acidic (like vinegar) flavor.