Category Archives: beer tasting

Giving thanks

Bear here. This may be coming a little late, but now is the time for detox and reflection on a successful Thanksgiving in the 2011 year. I started this blog a couple weeks ago and with a busy life comes little time to post one’s beer thoughts, so here I attempt to bring this back to life.

This was the second year my family spent Thanksgiving at Broadkill Beach in Delaware. Space is a little tight, but the faint ocean spray and brilliant sunsets over the Prime Hood Wildlife Refuge make this the perfect place to be reminded of all for which we should be appreciative. It is here the little things seem so clear, even monumental. From the waft of an herb-buttered turkey made with love to the nail-biting finish of a family card game to murmurs of snow geese in the distance to a brilliant early morning view.

And let’s not forget that little thing, good beer, here where it thrives in Delaware!

I arrived on Wednesday and immediately went to the brew store to stock up for the weekend, for my home. I hoped to find a few lingering Southern Tier Pumkings, a pumpkin imperial ale (one of the best I’ve tasted), but alas, no Pumking, instead a good smattering of holiday beers, not my favorite. I did find Unibroue’s Ephemere, a brew a friend told me about. I thought the apple beer would be a great compliment to Thanksgiving dinner, so I picked one up, along with a few other big beers to be tasted at a later date and a case of Victory’s Headwaters Pale Ale, perhaps my favorite session ale. I find the brew stores in Delaware refreshing, always something new and intriguing. Why can’t we have this selection in Pennsylvania? Why do the stuffy Germans have to impose such strict beer laws to not even allow my local beer distributor and fellow hop-lover offer a selection to be proud of, to ponder over, to tempt one’s curious tastebuds? Perhaps a rant for another post.

Thanksgiving was full of good blessings and good food. My parents sampled the Ephemere. Rather than scrunching their noses as they usually do to my beer tastings, they complimented the apple-infused Belgian. ‘It tastes like a hard cider’, my mom said. But it is not cider, it is beer and it is good. The Ephemere is dry, retaining a Belgian character with a hint of green Granny Smith apples. This brew went great with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and all the goodness we savored (or devoured) over dinner. The Ephemere now has its place in my beer tome, welcome.

Black Friday. Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing but Local Day. Go to Dogfish Head Brewery and Taste Local Day. Yes! My mom and I went to Dogfish Head, remembering last year they featured their ‘black’ beers on black friday. But this year were amber ales, rich ales, still all goodness. To be brief, as I tend to ramble, the tastings:

– Raison D’Etre, a little sweet and a brew I consider ‘ok’. Made with beet sugar, green raisons and Belgian yeast. Being a Belgian and full of raisons, this brew is definitely unique and comes on strong, but to ‘candied’ for me. Always willing to taste though!

– Hellbound Ale = simply great. Brewed with lemons, which come on first, it still retains the hoppy character of a good pale ale. My mom even liked this brew.

– Burton Baton, LOVED this brew. Very hoppy, very citrusy, something I wanted a full pint of, but a little dangerous at 10%abv. I would love to find this in bottles and enjoy sparingly.

– Old School, a barleywine for the masses at 15%abv. Very sweet smelling, but the strength of the alcohol kills it upon the first sip, which works in its favor. I enjoyed this beer, it was a nice finish to the day’s tastings.

Saturday morning began with a trip to Rehoboth Beach to run in the ‘Huff, Puff, and Race for Pumpkin Pie’ 5k! I was a little nervous about this run, considering I hurt my ankle a few weeks back and haven’t been on the same running streak. But give me a beautiful day, good energy, and anything goes! I kept a steady pace, but completed the run a little over 30 minutes. Even with a dead iPod, I was able to knock this race out! Now for the celebratory beer. But wait, nothing in Rehoboth opens before 11? And I would have to wait ’til noon for Dogfish Head??? Yep, headed back up the strip, my folks and I did, to stop at Bethany Blues where I not only found a good beer for celebration, but a 21oz Dogfish 60 Minute  IPA. Ah… succuess! No need to describe this brew; I simply love it, the hop complexity, the amber color, the rich flavor, the replenishing of electrolytes after a good run.

And on the road again to Baltimore, to visit with good friends among good tidings. First stop, 13.5%, a new wine bar in Balmer, where yes, I was the only one to order a beer. And a decent selection of beer too! I wanted Oskar Blues’ Imperial Red Ale, but was saddened to learn they were fresh out. So a Southern Tier 2X Imperial IPA on draught it was. Very yummy and definitely strong (although I’m not sure as strong as the wine samples my friends tasted), faint citrusy/piney hops, but not as forefront as I like my hops. A sweet maltiness seemed to carry this beer more than the hops, which sometimes happens in doubles – much sugar is needed to turn up the abv volume!

We stumbled through the rest of the night. A walk to 34th, where the Christmas lights draw crowds, reminiscent of the working class 1970s that continued a long-standing tradition or a reincarnated northern New Orleans (but the streets are much more narrow in NOLA!). Back in the cab to the college district, bouncing around to a few bars, the most notable Brewers Art, famed for its strong Belgians. Again, I’m not big on Belgians, but give me a good one and I’m happy. Their Resurrection Ale is a flavorful, drier brew with fruity characters making this a nice sipping beer. I also tried their seasonal St. Festivus, definitely a winter warmer that I was not ready for… after first taste, whoa! This brew’s got some spice. Winter seasonals aren’t really my cup of tea, but I managed to sip this down, appreciating a little of the holidays to come.

Sunday morning was met with bit of a headache and a much thirsty body. We gathered ourselves from the evening before, brushing off the dust from the Baltimore Streets and faced the day. A tasty hipster brunch down the street with my friends’ dad (who smiled at our ‘condition’ and chimed in with an early morning mimosa) and soon after, back to Selinsgrove I went. The weekend was full of things to remind me to be grateful. For all the love and caring I’m surrounded by, for the ability to spend quality time with those that mean so much to me, for my strength and health, and of course, for a good brew. I have been very fortunate. I am grateful, thankful, appreciative. Until next time, folks and much ‘beer love’ for you all!

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BJCP Test Prep: Resource Collection Edition

I was talking with Bear the other evening at our local pub, when another patron overheard our beer discussion and decided to test our beer knowledge with an earthshaking question: “What is the difference between an ale and a lager?”  We hoped that this query was a joke, but alas, the imbiber was fully serious.  We (not quite) politely answered the question and hoped that it got us into this individual’s Royal Order of Beer Knowers.  Discussion ensued in an attempt to keep the evening jovial, although I will admit I was likely slightly peevish and antagonistic.  I tend to get that way when, instead of simply appreciating that we share a knowledge base and including me as a new cohort member, one tries to continually one-up me when one really shouldn’t (no, hops aren’t roasted; yes, beer can contain banana esters and they are sometimes desirable).  I’ll blame it on too many years in academia and having my ego tied to my knowledge.  Also, I’d like to extend a huge “thank you” to our awesome bartender for deftly changing a topic when it seemed that tensions were getting a touch high and allowing the evening to be quite pleasant.

The point to this story is that in our discussion, Bear and I realized that we know quite a bit about the technicalities of beer.  While we had always intended to do tastings and include the ensuing notes as a part of this blog, we would like this blog to lead to some personal development, not just serve as a place for us to dump our musing, notes, and brewing adventures.  So we are going to work together to study for the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Test.  I had started before I moved earlier this year, so somewhere I have a set of flashcards prepared.

What this means for you, dear readers, is that our tastings will have some attempt to follow the standardized format.  Granted, as Bear and I rarely believe in ‘samples’ (unless we split a whole bottle), the quality of said formatting might be compromised as a session goes on.  This also means that you can hold us accountable, if you so choose to. Or you can follow along and gain some insight from us.

If you want to study along with us, we would love for you to comment on the site, join our twitter, or our upcoming G+ and Facebook pages!

Today I’m looking online for some resources.  Feel free to comment with some of your own.

BJCP.org is the logical (and comprehensive) start.  They publish a beer scoring sheet, a list of qualities of specific styles of beers in various printable forms, study guides, flashcards for off-flavors, and have links to getting publications for your mobile devices.

 

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