Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beer Club Volume 11 - Pilsners

*Editor's note - one of these months I'll get my Beer Club write up posted in time. July was not the month though.*

When I first started Beer Club, I would have never dreamed about doing a month focusing on pilsners. At the time, I associated pilsners with the yellow fizzy American macro lagers that Beer Club was supposed be leading me and my beer drinking buddies away from.

I'm not sure at what point it was that I drank a really good pilsner that made me re-evaluate what I thought about them but Pilsner Urquell was definitely one of the beers that made me revisit the style.

Somewhere along this beer journey of mine I got too consumed with bigger, badder and bolder beers to the detriment of appreciating and enjoying the more subtle and yet equally well-crafted styles of beers such as pilsners and even pale ales. Some people of influence made me realize the error of my ways. This Beer Club was designed to not only correct that but to illustrate just how far everybody had come in the past 11 months.

I picked out a lineup that did a pretty good job representing local stuff (Schell's) and US breweries from California (Lagunitas, North Coast) to Michigan (Bell's) to Pennsylvania (Victory) and threw in a couple from across the pond like Bitburger and the previously mentioned Pilsner Urquell.

From top to bottom, the beers went over very well with the guys (and girl). I actually thought there were a couple different ways to do the style and I couldn't decide which way I liked better. Beers like Scrimshaw and Pilsner Urquell had a very bakery fresh type of aroma and flavor to them in my opinion and beers like Schell's and Prima Pils had a very nice bitter hops character to them. I felt like a winner no matter which style I drank.

Just for fun, I took a Michelob Golden Draft Light (I believe this is somehow the most popular beer in Minnesota) that I found in the back of the fridge (left by guests no doubt) and had everybody try it in the middle of the lineup. It was pretty funny seeing everybody's reaction.

To me, it just tasted like carbonated water that I spilled an ounce of Schell's into. To others, it turned into a drain pour. This is the beer that half these guys used to stock their fridges at home a year ago and now they didn't even want to finish a 2 oz sample of it. Looks like I'm accomplishing something!

Like I said, everybody seemed to have a different set of favorites for the night. I already knew how good Pilsner Urquell and Schell's and Prima Pils were but the surprise to me was the Scrimshaw. It was a last minute addition when I couldn't find Brau's pilsner but it was damn good. I also think it was the best one in the bunch that could pull a yellow fizzy drinker over from the dark side.

I'm not sure if these beers will catch on for everybody and be the kind that they'd stock at home but now we all have better options when we want something on the lighter side of things than reverting back to Miller Lite or Mich Golden.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pilsner Urquell

Time for another quick review. I first had Pilsner Urquell as a sample at the Four Firkins a few months ago. I wasn't able to get a good feel for the beer but I did know that I wanted to try some more of it.

For our anniversary shortly after that, Allison and I went to Murray's for dinner. It's amazing how a place that tries to be that classy can give me their "beer list" on a quarter sheet of paper that looked like it was typed up on a typewriter. Luckily I saw Pilsner Urquell on the menu and took a shot at it.

It was one of the best yellow fizzy beers I've ever had. Yes, I used that term to describe it but in this case, this is a yellow fizzy beer that the American macrobreweries should emulate. I added it to last month's Beer Club lineup (which I'm running a bit late on the write up for) and it was a hit.

This beer looks just like any Budweiser or Miller Lite for the most part when you pour it but that's where the similarities stop. Every time I pour this out of a can (and do buy the can, for some reason they bottle it in the skunk inducing green bottles) I get a bit of an off aroma, a bit of a sulfur type smell. That quickly fades though and the dominant thing that comes through for me is a beautiful fresh bread aroma. I know that sounds weird if you've never smelled it in a beer before but trust me, it's awesome.

The flavor has a slight hoppy note to it but is more biscuity and again, tastes like fresh bread and has a much fuller mouthfeel than your typical macrobrewer's "pilsner." The finish has some hops in it as well along with some sweetness.

If you've never had this beer before and like the idea of smelling and tasting a bakery in your pilsner glass, pick up a four pack of Pilsner Urquell (again, in cans) and enjoy!

Do you have an opinion on this beer? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chimay Red

I figured what better way to get on a roll tonight than to review another beer. Since I bought some Chimay cheese last weekend and have been on a Belgian kick lately, I figured Chimay Rouge (or Red if you want to sound less pretentious... let's go with Red) would be a good choice for my second beer of the night.

If you've never heard of Trappist beers before, do yourself a favor and check out this link. When I chose Trappists for March's Beer Club, I found the history of the beer and the monks to be absolutely fascinating and loved everything about them before I even began trying all the beers.

If you've never tried a Trappist beer before, this may very well be your best place to start. There's a review on Rate Beer that puts it very much into perspective, when Bud Light was running its campaign on "drinkablity", this is the beer that should have been featured.

This stuff is just pure drinkablity beerified. The aroma and taste both fill your senses with sweetness, dark fruit, caramel and so much more with an absolutely beautiful finish. This review isn't to tell you what to expect from the beer. You either already know or if you don't, you just need to go buy a bottle right now.

You should be able to find it for about $4-6 which might sound a little steep but when you realize you're not buying a Bud Light but the equivalent of a (half bottle of) world class wine that's meant to be savored, you'll realize it's a good deal.

As for the cheese component, that's where the money thing gets a little crazy. The stuff isn't cheap at all, about $15-17 per pound. Not exactly Velveeta. But it's one of those things that's worth treating yourself every now and again. Plus wine's got nothing on these beers when it comes to pair with cheese. That being said, the cheese is not at all necessary to enjoy the beer, it's fabulous on its own.

I guess this entry isn't so much a review of Chimay Red as it is a recommendation of it and a blatant declaration of my love for it specifically and Trappist beers in general. Let me know if you'd tried this or not and if you haven't, let me know after you've made a run to your local beer store and gave it a try. If you don't like it, I'll buy ya a Bud Light. OK, that's not true. But I will buy you your favorite good beer if you don't like this one!

A review of Boulevard Collaboration No. 1 Imperial Pilsner

I figured it was time to get back to doing a few reviews on this blog from time to time. I realize I don't have the most sophisticated palate and sometimes have troubles picking out exact notes in the aromas and flavors but dammit, I like drinking beer and I can tell you if one is good or not.

So here goes, back in the saddle again with a Boulevard Smokestack series beer. This one is their first collaboration and it's an imperial pilsner made with the help of Jean-Marie Rock from the trappist brewery Orval.

After I was blown away by Odell's Double Pilsner (my first one), I was curious to see Boulevard & Orval's take on it. To clarify, I'm not saying I was blown away by how good it was (although it was pretty damn good) but by how full of flavors and aromas it was. It was an excellent beer, especially for $11 or so a sixer.

The Boulevard version poured with a pale orange color and a fluffy, white three-fingered head. I could tell by smelling that it wasn't going to be quite as big in the flavor department, but it had a nice grassy and malty flavor with a hint of hops. Using the Rate Beer rating scale, I gave it a 6/10 for aroma. I guess I expected more from an imperial version of the style.

The flavor was also a bit subtle but fortunately a bit more complex. I got more of the hops, some sweetness and some citrus. The finish was dry and crisp but unlike a lot of dry finishes, this one actually preserved much of the flavor and left it lingering on the tongue for awhile. I gave it a 7/10 for flavor and a 5/5 for finish.

I'd definitely drink this one again (I gave it a 15/20 overall), but don't know that I'd pay that price to buy it again (I can't remember exactly, but it was in the $8-12 range). I'd rather take the money and buy some Schell's Pils or some Pilsner Urquell. But if you're buying, I'm drinking!