NYTimes: Brewers Embrace Flower Power

There's an interesting article (registration required) in today's New York Times about the popularity of hoppy craft beers. The article mentions IPAs and Double IPAs from breweries like Dogfish Head, Stone and Victory.

The article does a good job discussing different varieties of hops and the characteristics that they impart to beer. There's also an interesting bit about the origin of Cascade hops.

All this experimentation began with an unsuccessful effort to please the giants of the brewing industry.

In the 1960's and 70's, Schlitz, Pabst, Anheuser-Busch and other big breweries that depended on Cluster were looking for a more bitter hop so they could use less. Hop breeders in the Pacific Northwest, where virtually all American hops are grown, responded with Cascade.

But while Cascade's bitterness was more intense than Cluster's, its shelf life was considerably shorter, so it was little used until the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company introduced its Pale Ale in 1981.

The article also mentions newer hoppy pilsners from DFH and Victory. There's a great quote from Sam Calagione about DFH's "imperial" pilsner.

"We are launching this big, super-hoppy beer to remind people that the pilsner style used to have a lot of flavor and a lot of hops before the big breweries and their half-billion-dollar advertising budgets ruined it," he said.

It's an interesting article, and well worth the read.

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350. UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen

350. UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen

I noticed this new beer a week or two ago at Downtown Wine & Spirits. I decided to pick up a six-pack tonight. I chilled this in the fridge and served in my Harpoon UFO Weizen glass.

Beer Advocate lists this as a Fruit/Vegatable Beer, which is a catch all category. In reality this is an American Hefe Weizen (what BA calls an American Pale Wheat Ale), flavored with raspberries.

If you've had this beer and agree or disagree with my review, or have anything to add please leave a comment.

Appearance (4.0): Pours a hazy red-orange with a fluffy white head that quickly diminishes to a thin layer.

Smell (3.0): The nose is dominated by the smell of raspberries. There's a faint graininess evident on swirling.

Taste (4.0): I was expecting more of a raspberry flavor given the aroma, but the raspberry flavors are more understated (this isn't a bad thing). Raspberry flavors are evident upfront, but don't overwhelm. A citrusy tartness emerges in the center and lingers into the finish, where it melds with a grainy wheat flavor.

Mouthfeel (3.5): Light-bodied with moderate carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability (4.5): Very light, refreshing and easy to drink.

Overall (3.8): This beer reminded me of Abita Purple Haze, it's been awhile since I've had Purple Haze so I can't express a preference. This is a pretty good fruit beer. I'm not a huge fan of American Hefe Weizens. I tend to prefer the fruity and spicy flavors present in German Hefes. I think the raspberry adds some of what I feel is missing from the American style. As such I prefer UFO Raspberry over UFO.

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349. Rogue FestiveAle

349. Rogue FestiveAle

I picked up a bomber of Rogue FestiveAle at Downtown Wine & Spirits. The bottle says "Ale brewed with herbs & spices", and lists Myrtle Leaves, Bitter Orange Peel and Ginger Root as ingredients. I let this warm and served in one of my Duvel tulips.

FestiveAle is a Saison. Saisons were traditionally brewed in the winter for consumption during the summer when brewing wasn't feasible. Typically saisons are spiced, and FestiveAle is no exception. BJCP Style Guide. Garrett Oliver, in The Brewmaster's Table, says "With food, the best saisons are beyond versatile - they are virtually invincible." With the variety of aromas and flavors present I can see what he means.

If you've had this beer and agree or disagree with my review, or have anything to add please leave a comment.

Appearance (4.0): Pours a hazy amber-golden with a fluffy off-white head with decent retention, and reemerges upon swirling.

Smell (3.5): A musty yeasty smell predominates, with an underlying sharp aroma. There are also notes of pepper and citrus.

Taste (3.0): There is very little sweetness in this beer. A tartness begins in the center and seems to envelop the mouth. There is a lingering bitterness at the end. As the beer warms fruity flavors move forward, especially citrus. Overall the tart citrus flavor seems too dominant.

Mouthfeel (3.5): The carbonation is a little strong. The beer is on the medium side of light-bodied with an almost oily feel. The finish is dry.

Drinkability (4.0): Refreshing with a nice dryness.

Overall (3.45): This beer definitely improves as it warms, but in the end the citric tartness is too overpowering.

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Beer "Sommelier"

Appellation Beer links to this article in the New York Post about Aviram Turgeman, New York's first beer "sommelier." The newly opened Cafe D'Alsace in The Upper East Side has over 100 bottled beers, and Turgeman focuses on pairing beer with food. Turgeman says, "Beer can pair just as well with food as wine. We have the variety and selection here to show people how to do just that."

It's nice to see a restaurant that emphasizes quality beer. Most of the nicer restaurants I've been to in Boston focus on wine, and serve the standard alleged premium
beers (Heineken, Amstel Light, Corona, etc.) with maybe one or two truly good beers thrown in. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

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348. Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale

348. Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale

I purchased an 11.2 oz. bottle at Downtown Wine & Spirits. The clerk asked me if I'd had any other Hitachino Nest beers. The bottle says "Ale brewed with red rice". I let this warm to around 50º F and served it in one of my Duvel Tulips.

I'm not sure exactly how to classify this beer. Beer Advocate lists it as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Rate Beer assigns it to the catch-all category "Traditional Ale". It definitely doesn't fit into the Belgian Strong Pale category.

Appearance (4.0): Pours a cloudy deep red color with hints of orange. The white foamy head dissipates to a thin layer, but reemerges readily upon swirling.

Smell (3.5): The nose is primarily tart like a sour ale. There are slight hints of phenols, yeast and alcohol.

Taste (3.5): The beer is sweet upfront and moves into a fruity and acidic tartness in the center. The finish is mildly bitter.

Mouthfeel (2.5): Prickly carbonation, smooth, light-bodied with a dry finish. I thought this beer was a little too watery.

Drinkability (3.5): Pretty easy to drink, but the hidden alcohol might get you.

Overall (3.5): This beer reminded me a lot of a toned down Flanders Red Ale. It was interesting, and fairly enjoyable. This was a really hard beer to pin down. I wavered a bit on the scores, but in the end I think the overall score comes out about right.

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347. Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel

347. Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel

Lately I've been mostly sticking to Ales, so tonight I decided to have a lager. I picked up a bottle of Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel on recognition of the brewery, which also produces the delicious Celebrator Doppelbock. The name translates to "Old Bavarian Dark Beer". I let this warm to around 45º F, and served it in my Harpoon UFO Weizen glass, the closest thing to appropriate glassware that I had. This beer is a Munich Dunkel Lager. BJCP Style Guide.

Appearance (3.5): Pours a clear ruby brown with a flufft beige head that dissipates slowly. Large bubbles rise slowly to the top.

Smell (4.0): The nose is rich and malty, with notes of caramel and toffee. Very nice.

Taste (3.5): Sweet caramel upfront, with a slight tartness rolling through the center. There's an understated and lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. The bitterness could be a little more pronounced and still give a well-balanced beer.

Mouthfeel (3.0): Tingly carbonation on the tip of the tongue. The beer seems a tad watery for being medium-bodied.

Drinkability (4.0): Smooth, malty and easy to drink.

Overall (3.6): This is a fairly well-balanced (more hop bitterness would be nice) and tasty beer. It's good for the style, which happens to not be a favorite of mine.

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346. Hoegaarden Original White Ale

346. Hoegaarden Original White Ale

I had two glasses at a biology department recruiting event at Flat Top Johnny's in Cambridge last night. They were served on tap in Hoegaarden tumblers with wedges of lemon that were promptly removed.

Hoegaarden is the beer that revived the Witbier style. It's the fourth that I've blogged about. The others are Hitachino Nest White Ale, Vuuve White, and Ommegang Winter Witte. By the mid 1960s almost all Belgian breweries producing a Wit had stopped doing so. In 1966 Pierre Celis revived the style with Hoegaarden. He moved to Austin, TX and began the Celis Brewery in the early 90s. The brewery is now closed, but the Michigan Brewing Company took over production of Celis beers.

Appearance: Pours a very pale hazy straw color with a creamy white head that fades to a thin layer.

Smell: The aroma is fruity and spicy with hints of peppers, clove and banana.

Taste: The taste is lightly sweet upfront, which is somewhat masked by the carbonation. Spices come out in the center (cloves and pepper). The finish is grainy with a slight bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Prickly carbonation, light-bodied, with a crisp, clean and dry finish from the graininess. The cloves almost gave a numbing sensation.

Drinkability: Smooth and clean, refreshing like other examples of the style.

Overall: I liked this beer, it was very tasty and the spiciness, aside from the cloves, was more subdued than in other witbiers I've tried. The clove flavors reminded me more of a Hefe Weizen than a witbier though. The cloves and graininess almost made this beer seem like an intermediate between an American and German Hefe.

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A-B Visited my Blog

I was checking the hit counter on my blog and noticed this one:

My previous post came up in a search for "Anheuser" at http://blogsearch.google.com, according to the listed referring URL.

I would have at least liked a comment trying to defend their shitty beer.


An Interesting Article About Yeast

I found this interesting article about my favorite organism, both personally and scientifically, from RSBS. The article talks about the commercial importance of yeast in making beer, bread and wine. It also talks about the hypothesis that yeast may have played a large role in our civilization.
Yeast, it seems, might even have prompted the beginnings of modern civilization. According to some historians, humans gave up their nomadic ways and settled in villages to grow grain for baking and brewing after they discovered the benefits of yeast, namely fermentation and leavening.

One of the most interesting parts of the article, for me at least, was the yeast collection of the late Herman J. Phaff at UC Davis.

The university’s Department of Food Science and Technology houses one of the world’s largest collections of yeast, with more than 500 species and 6,000 strains, including heirloom wine yeast from California and Europe.

Much of the collection was gathered by professor Herman J. Phaff, who has been called the Indiana Jones of yeast.

On expeditions to Japan, Argentina, the Caribbean and Mexico, Phaff gently scraped samples of yeast from tree branches and fruit, cactuses, flowers and rotting stumps. He brought the prizes back to UC-Davis, where he worked for decades.

There is mention of a few ways science done with yeast benefits humans. However, both of examples are applied science. As a yeast researcher I get annoyed that basic research in yeast (and basic research in general) gets short shrift in the media. For example, an article I read about genome sequencing in Wired several years ago listed yeast as commercially important, but not scientifically important.

Yeast research has been tremendously important in our understanding of basic biological problems. Studies of the yeast cell cycle paved the way for studies of the mammalian cell cycle. The 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given for cell-cycle work. Two of the three recipients won for their work in yeast. Leland Hartwell for work in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Sir Paul Nurse for his work in Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

The end of the article has some quotes from bakers and brewers, and talks about the use of yeast commercially.
The brewery [an Anheuser-Busch plant in California] can produce 136 million gallons of beer each year. But all that Budweiser depends on the well-being of the yeast, a secret strain used by Anheuser-Busch since 1876.
It's too bad that this secret yeast strain is used largely to create such bad beer.

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345. De Dolle Oerbier

345. De Dolle Oerbier

I purchased this bottle where I buy most of my other beers, Downtown Wine & Spirits. The label on this one caught my eye. There's a chubby yellow man with a sash that says "Anno 1980." I let this warm to around 50 or 55ºF, and served it in one of my Duvel tulip glasses. This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Belgian Strong Dark ales are high alcohol beers, with both fruity and spicy characteristics. BJCP Style Guide.

Appearance (5.0): Pours a dark cloudy amber-brown with an uncontrollably massive and persistent meringue-like beige head. Lace sticks very well to the glass. Really beautiful.

Smell (4.0): Sharp upfront, with an earthy, yeasty scent. Underlying hints of fruit and spice. Sour-apple, and black pepper. Fairly subtle overall.

Taste (4.5): Delicious. Sweet upfront, sour-apple and other fruity flavors in the center, along with peppery spices. Alcoholic warmth and a citrusy tartness through the finish. Bitterness is low throughout.

Mouthfeel (4.5): Incredibly smooth and silky, tingly carbonation. Medium bodied. Dry finish.

Drinkability (4.0): Very drinkable in spite of the high alcohol content. The tart sour-apple flavors make this deceptively drinkable.

Overall (4.45): This Belgian Strong Dark has a very nice balance between spicy and fruity flavors, with one not overpowering the other.

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49. Anchor Porter

49. Anchor Porter

I picked up a six-pack of Anchor Porter at Downtown Wine & Spirits. I felt like having a stout or porter tonight, and this looked the most enticing. This is an American Porter, or a Robust Porter. These porters tend to have stronger roasted characteristics than traditional porters, and may be hoppier.

Appearance (4.5): Pours a dark opaque brown, with ruby edges. A two finger fluffy brown head diminishes to a thin layer.

Smell (4.0): There are sweet, slightly tart fruity aromas, and roasted aromas of caramel, coffee and chocolate.

Taste (4.5): Sweet and bready upfront with fruity tartness in the center. Nice roasted flavors in the finish, including chocolate and coffee. The aftertaste is both bitter from the roasted flavors and sweet.

Mouthfeel (3.5): Moderate to light carbonation, smooth and medium-bodied.

Drinkability (5.0): Well-balanced and amazingly easy to drink.

Overall (4.35): This is a nice flavorful porter, easily one of my favorites.

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344. Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale 2004

344. Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale 2004

I decided to try this beer because Ali liked it (blog entry coming soon). I picked up a 12 oz. bottle at Downtown Wine and Spirits. The label says "Ale Brewed With Spices: coriander, orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla beans". Although not technically the proper glassware I served this in one of my new Duvel Tulips because I really wanted to use one.

Celebration Ale is a Winter Warmer. Many, but not all, winter warmers are brewed with spices though these spices will vary depending on the brewer. The spices used in those that are tend to be evocative of the holiday season. English winter warmers are unspiced. BJCP Style Guide.

Appearance (4.5): Pours a hazy almost opaque amber-brown with a massive fluffy beige head. Spices used in brewing can be seen as clumps floating in the beer. Some of these get caught in the head giving the appearance that spices have been sprinkled on top.

Smell (4.0): Spices are very noticable. There are notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, vanilla and alcohol.

Taste (3.0): This beer is very spicy with a sweet base. I can taste vanilla, citrus, orange, and cinnamon. Bitterness is low. Alcoholic warmth is evident in the finish. The sweetness in this beer isn't well balanced. Maybe increasing the bitterness would improve things.

Mouthfeel (4.0): Celebration Ale is full-bodied, smooth and creamy.

Drinkability (3.0): If this beer wasn't so sweet it would be much more drinkable.

Overall (3.6): This is a decent beer. The spices add some nice flavors, but in the end the beer is too damn sweet.

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