Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beer Club Volume Nine - Wheat & Wit Beers

As with saisons last month, I wanted to plan May's Beer Clubl with some beers that everybody could try and enjoy during the hot summer months in Minnesota. Let's face it, Bourbon County Stout might be one of the best beers on the planet, but it's not something you wanna sit out on your deck drinking several of on a 95 degree Saturday afternoon in June.

Enter wheat beers and witbiers. Rather than do two separate months with these closely related styles, I wanted to keep things interesting by combining them so everybody could notice how one differs from the other.

At the same time, a line up of beers that similar to each other could be a little boring so Alvey and I decided to throw a few curveballs in with a strawberry wheat (and again representing a local brewery), a hoppy wheat beer, a dark Belgian ale brewed with wheat and even an imperial witbier. Here is the lineup:

Hoegaarden, a Belgian White from Brouwerij Hoegaarden (Belgium)
Strawberry Wheat, a Wheat Ale from Brau Brothers (Minnesota)
Hop Sun, a Wheat Ale from Southern Tier (New York)
Steenbrugge Wit, a Belgian White from Brouwerij Palm (Belgium)
Oberon, a Wheat Ale from Bell's (Michigan)
Chambly Noire, a Belgian Ale from Unibroue (Sapporo) (Canada)
Witte Noire, a Wheat Ale from De Proefbrouwerij (Belgium)
Imperial Dunkel Wit, a Belgian Strong Ale from Nøgne Ø (Norway)

This style wasn't the most interesting to break down or discuss in great lengths but I think everybody got to try something new (or in some cases, a half dozen or more new beers) and get an idea of what they want to grab a sixer of to bring to the cabin, fishing or to the park with them when the weather is hot. I also finally had an excuse to buy a Bell's mini-keg!

The thing I got most out of this meeting was how much fun it was, I don't remember laughing that much in a long time and it was pretty evident that we've gelled pretty well as a club it's proof that having beer as a hobby can make you great new friends.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sam Adams Longshot

I'm not sure how I missed the first however-many-of-these there have been, but a few months ago I heard about Sam Adams annual Longshot competition. In a nutshell, it's their contest for home brewers to see who can submit the best beers with the winners being produced and sold in six packs. The most recent winners were an old ale and a barleywine with saison brewed by an employee of Sam Adams being the third beer.

I recently came across a six-pack containing two of each of these beers and since I absolutely loved the concept and spirit of the competition I had to pick one up and check them out. I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts about them and post this entry to help spread the word about the competition in case you've been in the dark about its existence like I was.

The first one I tried was the lemon pepper saison created by Samuel Adams employee Jeremy White. It was a very effervescent beer with a pretty clean, crisp flavor. The spices (especially the coriander) in the beer made it come off as more of a witbier to me than a saison but it was still a pretty good beer.

The next beer was an old ale created by Michael Robinson. This style isn't one I'm too familiar with (Hibernation from Great Divide and Old Curmudgeon from Founders are about the extent of my experience) but I really enjoyed this beer. It was slightly boozy (to be expected from the 9% ABV) but it the main aroma and flavor that came across to me were the dark fruit notes. It was surprisingly easy to drink for such a big beer.

The last beer I tried was a barley wine from Ben Miller. Before I tried it, I thought that it was curious that they would have chosen a bit more variety for the winners because the old ale I had just finished really reminded me of a barley wine as well. But the barley wine really came off as completely different to me than the old ale before it. The aroma didn't do much for me, it was pretty weak but once I took a sip I got quite a bit of flavor. It also had some dark fruit elements to it but the big thing I noticed was the hops profile. As I swallowed I noticed these flavors were accentuated in the finish. It was like a three part process with each part growing and showcasing what the beer was all about.

I enjoyed all three beers but if I had to pick a winner I'd go with Michael's old ale by just a nose over Ben's barley wine. I think I'm going to cellar the remaining bottle of each and see how they develop with some time and I'm going to pick a nice hot summer day to crack the other bottle of Jeremy's saison.

So, this is just one more thing to inspire me to brew my own beer one of these days. Well, that and Josh, Matt and Brett doing their best to recruit me. I told them that maybe next year's sixers will look like this:

Once I do take the plunge into making my own beer I'll do my best to get on there. If I'm as good at brewing as I am at buying beer and drinking it, I'll be a shoe-in to be on this package in the future!