Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bruery Smoking Wood

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 12/27/2012

A few days before Christmas while at the local good beer shop, I noticed a case of Brooklyn Brewery's Black Ops in 750ml bottles on the floor by the check out. I asked how much they were going for, and was told something like $20. Hmmm... that's a lot for a bottle of beer from across the river. Though a few days later, when shopping for some special brews to enjoy on Christmas day I ended up dropping $28 on bottle of the same size. At least that bottle had to travel from Orange County, CA!
The 2011 label.
The Bruery's Smoking Wood is a 13% abv imperial smoked porter. They describe it thusly:
"Brewed with beachwood and cherrywood smoked malt, and aged in rye whiskey barrels, Smoking Wood is a delicious demonstration of what wood has to offer when it comes to beer. This imperial smoked porter is brewed with a hefty amount of rye malt, contributing to a full body and light spiciness. Toasty oak, caramel and vanilla flavors balance the smokiness, contributing to an intense yet refined flavor profile"
Smoking Wood is an incredibly well put together beer, that has a smoked quality so subtle that it's hard to detect in the aroma, yet gently discernible on first taste, melding with the roasty malty chocolate flavors. It's robust malt flavor profile easily masks the whopping 13% alcohol strength. Hear all the details in this week's podcast!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hospoda Czech Pub

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 12/22/2012

Last October we did a short blog post on Hospoda, the Czech bistro located in the Bohemian National Hall at 321 E. 73rd St., between 1st Ave. and 2nd Ave. The building also houses the General Consulate of the Czech Republic, and hosts many cultural events and activities. But more importantly, the building houses the freshest, tastiest Pilsner Urquell this side of the Atlantic!
Check out the podcast to learn about the four distinctly different ways that they serve Pilsner Urquell -- the flagship beer of Hospoda. Also in the podcast Hospoda manager Filip Trcka explains the newly implemented methods of transport and distribution of Pilsner Urquell (known in Czech as Plzeňský Prazdroj) which ensures the freshest Pilsner in America! (Well, up until when the bar receives the beer -- how they handle it after that determines the beers final condition).
Hospoda manager Filip
The walls of Hospoda feature a wood-cut mural...
created by a Prague graffiti artist Masker.
And now for some trivia and history... it's been estimated that 90% of the beer consumed worldwide owes it's origin to the "original Pilsner." One of the most famous cousins to Pilsner beer, of course, is Anheuser-Bush's Budweiser. And while many know that "Bud" was inspired by Böhmisch Budweis aka Budweiser Budvar aka České Budějovice, many don't know that American Budweiser was originally a contract brew, made for Carl Conrad in 1876. Conrad, who was a liquor importer, discovered Bohemian Pilsner beer while traveling through Europe.

Conrad contracted with his St. Louis business colleague Adolphus Bush to make a similar beer for the American market. Bush had sold brewing supplies prior to becoming a brewer, when he married into the Anheuser family, which operated a brewery. It turned out that cloning Czech Pilsner was an extremely difficult thing to do at the time. Getting a hold of Moravian malt wasn't a cost effective option, and the American two-row barley wasn't exactly perfect for cloning the newly invented beer style. Pilsner was invented in 1842 by Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer who was contracted by the town of Pilsen to formulate a new high quality beer to replace the dreck that the townspeople rejected in protest in 1840.

The distinct rings mean clean glassware!
 Bush consulted with his brewmaster, experimenting with different ingredients and techniques, and finally hit upon using rice -- by a ratio of 1 lb of rice for every 21 lbs of barley -- as an adjunct to attain the flavor, texture, color, and characteristics that he sought. The beer was decoction mashed, and used a yeast strain imported from Bohemia. And, interestingly enough, at the time it was more expensive to use rice in place of barley -- it was used to provide the light color, body and flavor, not as a means to save money.

A few sips into a Creme or "Hladinka".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Final Pumpkin Podcast!

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 11/8/2012

Our third and final Pumpkin Podcast Panel was recorded in two parts. The first part was recorded on the evening of Oct. 29, shortly after we lost power and heat, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. With our battery powered recorder, an emergency LED light and some candles, we tried Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale and La Citrueille Céleste de Citracado (The Heavenly Pumpkin of Citricado), a "collabeeration" between Stone, The Bruery and Elysian.
Smuttynose was one of the most "beerlike" pumpkin beers out of all 11 pumpkin beers we tried, with discernible hop characteristics. Smutty's fell close in line to the standard pumpkin pie spice flavors that defined versions by Bluepoint, Post Road, Wolavers, and Captain Lawrence, though they all had their distinctions.
La Citrueille, a 5% abv ale, was one of the more non-standard pumpkin beers, with one of the more esoteric list of ingredients: yams, sugar pumpkins, fenugreek, lemon verbena, rye malt (both regular and dark), brown and honey malts, C-15 dextrine malt, birch bark in the whirlpool, New Zealand Motueka hops. It was earthy and a bit herbal, and intentionally far from the pumpkin pie spice characteristics of other pumpkin beers.

In the second part, long after both electricity and heat were restored to our home, we finished the panel with three outstanding beers. We started with the Midnight Sun T.R.E.A.T. (The Royal Eccentric Ale Treatment) which wasn't very big on the pumpkin pie flavors, but was rich, dark, heavy, complex and delicious. It's billed as a 7.8% Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter. This one's going to end up in the fridge again!

Then, a favorite of mine and a non-favorite of B.R.'s, the Southern Tier Pumpking! This 8.6% seasonal Imperial Pumpkin Ale is a sweet, almost buttery/creamy, gingerbready desert of a beer. It is the quintessential pumpkin pie beer. It's pretty much a love it or hate it kind of beer. And while it's not what I'd reach for on a hot summer afternoon, I'm happy to drink it from October through November!
We finished up with a beer from a brewery which you might assume makes nothing but pumpkin beer -- Jolly Pumpkin. Out of the 15 beers they list on their website, only one, La Parcela, is made with pumpkin. Jolly Pumpkin is known for their sour beers, using open fermentation, oak aging and bottle conditioning. La Parcela, which we had from a growler filled at Good Beer, definitely had sourness. But it was a mild sourness, mild spiciness, complimented by earthiness and bitterness -- delicate and complex. This was the lightest bodied beer in the entire panel, and probably the most refreshing.

Hey! An actual pumpkin beer from Jolly Pumpkin!
Out of the entire panel, the La Parcela, Carton, La Citrueille, Oak Jacked Imperial, and Treat were the most "un-pumpkin" pumpkin beers. Smuttynose edged away from the pack with it's unique hop bitterness. For the beers that aimed towards pumpkin pie, Pumpking was a stand out. It was interesting to see how some angled towards nutmeg flavors, others towards cinnamon, and yet others steered away from standard pie spice all together. The variety of the beers -- in color, from pale yellow to near opaque, in ABV, from 5% to 10.31% -- demonstrated that there's a wide range in everything when it comes to pumpkin beer!
Weathering the storm.
La Citrueille.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pumpkin Podcast 2

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 11/3/2012

In the second installment of the pumpkin podcast, we check out:
Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Wolavers Organic Pumpkin Ale
Unita's Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Before-After Premium Lager

Ever since New York (and New Amsterdam) existed, the city has attracted, and continues to attract, immigrants from all over the world. Many neighborhoods end up as ethnic enclaves of particular immigrant groups (Little Italy, Chinatown, etc.). The East Village has been home to a substantial Ukrainian/Eastern Eurpean community since the mid- to late-1800s. There's still a strong presence there, which is why you can find so many exotic (often cheap) beers from Poland (Żywiec, Warka, Okoci), Ukraine, and the like -- beers that you won't find in any other kinds of neighborhoods.
Before drinking it.
Last week I noticed a new one in an East Village deli. "Before And After Premium Lager", from Rinkuskiai, Lithuania, caught my eye because of the illustration on the label. It was of a "pretty lady" (After) which turned into a sad old hag (Before) when the picture was turned upside down. The joke being, "this beer is so strong that after drinking it, you'll see haggard old women as attractive young gals." Slightly funny -- beer goggles, and all -- but perhaps a bit sexist. Maybe they do a "stud/old man" version for the ladies. Anyway, I typically don't let pictures on beer bottles dictate my drinking habits, but I've never tasted a Lithuanian beer, and I doubt that I've ever had a lager which was so strong -- though the $2.99 price tag for a half liter bottle sort of hinted that this might not be the Lithuanian Duvel.

The beer had a hazy copper-gold color and poured out with a reasonable head, which dissipated quickly. It had a sweet cotton-candy aroma with some malt notes -- but the main aroma was unquestionably alcohol. The first taste sensation was a sharp acidic note followed by a bitter alcohol flavor, with some sweetness underneath, though dominated by the harsh alcohol flavor. The beer becomes more bitter as it warms, but it's alcohol bitter, not hops bitter. It fades to a dull, astringent aftertaste that unpleasantly sticks on the tongue. Alcohol.

Someone had posted elsewhere on-line that this should be classified as an "imperial malt liquor", which pretty accurately nails it.
Label for their triple bock.
The bottle that I tried had a red label with both "European Beer" and "Premium Lager" displayed on it, along with the 12% abv notation. Though on-line, the importer, Aiko Importers, displays a 12% "Triple Bock" with a red label and a 4.7% "Premium Lager" with a gold/yellow label. For whatever reason, they seemed to have merged the two labels.

The importer's website states that this beer uses an all malt recipe and utilizes no adjuncts. What malts they use, I'd like to know, so that I could avoid them. The beer has no redeeming qualities. The best thing about the beer is a half-funny label that's really just a stale joke. I hate to be a hater, but there are better and less unpleasant ways to get blind drunk (though few more economical). And, really, that's all this beer is good for. Honestly, they should reverse the designation of "before" and "after". Before you drink this beer, you're youthful and full of life. Afterwards... two steps from the grave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Podcast 1

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 10/22/2012

The leaves are changing color, the air is getting brisker and we're starting to get hit with Christmas ads. That must mean that it's almost Halloween! It's the time of year for that popular seasonal drink, the pumpkin beer.

Pumpkins were used to make beer by early Americans in lieu of malted barley, which wasn't as easy to get as the bountiful native orange fruit. And while most people connect the flavors of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg as pumpkin flavor, the actual flesh of the fruit doesn't impart any of those flavors. When using pumpkin meat in a mash, it's safe to say that most of the actual flavor and aroma of the fruit will be lost in the mashing and boiling of the wort.

It's pumpkin pie flavors that usually dominate the seasonal pumpkin beers, and some are subtle, some are heavily over spiced, and some get it just right.
We'll taste and review seven different pumpkin beers -- all ales -- in a two-segment Pumpkin Podcast. For the first installment, we taste Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale (5.5% abv), Blue Point Pumpkin Ale (6% abv) and Carton Brewing's Pumpkin Cream Ale (9% abv).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hospoda Czech Pub/Bistro

Considering what a huge fan I am of Budvar, Staropramen, and, of course Pilsner Urquell, I can't believe that it's taken me a year to check out Hospoda (Czech for "pub"), the Czech bar/bistro located in the Upper East Side -- in the same building as the Consulate General of the Czech Republic. My Czech hockey coaching pal Mike has been trying to get me there since the place opened in fall of 2011, touting the various types of pours served and the extreme freshness of the Pilsner there. I thought, "Meh -- I've had Urquell. It's good. How could it be that much, if any, better at this place?"

Finally, chance would place us in the pub's neighborhood. As we entered Mike greeted the reputed master tapman Lukas, who's in charge of the famed pours at Hospoda. We sat at a long, narrow communal table and a waitress came to us with small sample glasses filled with mostly Pilsner Urquell foam. She explained the four different pours offered and what differentiated them -- from the creamiest all-foam pour to the sharp tasting headless mug.
A glass floor reveals the cold room storing kegs.
As I put glass to mouth and got my first taste of Hospoda's Pilsner Urquell, I had a genuine flashback to the very first time that I tasted fresh Czech pilsner. I was 18 years old, in West Berlin and I had ordered a Budweiser Budvar on draught. It was like no other beer that I had ever tasted. And since then, I've had more Czech pilsners than I can recall, often at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Queens. And you'd think that they'd have good pilsner there, and they do. But not like this -- nothing as bright and fresh and flavorful as the pilsner served at Hospoda.
Descriptions of the various pours on offer.
We'll leave the report there for now, because it's inevitable that B.R. and I will return to Hospoda (in the very near future) for some of that Czech liquid gold, and to find out how the beer there is so much fresher and tastier than what we've experienced elsewhere in the past.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lite Beer Drinkers Trend Republican?

A chart by Tracey Robinson of the National Media Research has been making the rounds lately which illustrates the political leanings and likelihood of voter turnout based on what brand of beer people drink. In case you haven't seen it yet, here you go!

I don't know if any meaningful conclusions can be drawn from it (fans of Miller products are more likely to vote than fans of A-B products?). It definitely looks like drinkers of craft beers and imports skew towards Democrats. One thing that's not surprising -- people who drink non-craft beers are less likely voters than those who enjoy the good stuff.

I'm not sure who'll come out on top this election, but the guy currently in the White House isn't afraid to be seen downing some brew, as evidenced below. For some reason, I couldn't find one picture of the challenger having even one beer! (heh heh!)