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!)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dial M for Mild

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 10/3/2012

On Friday Sept. 28, 2012 Brooklyn Brewery had a release party for a beer never before made at Brooklyn, as part of the Worshipful Company of Brewers series. As Brooklyn's website explains, "The charter of this sanctified league dictates that each member of the Brooklyn Brewery brewing team will design and create a batch of his/her own draft-only beer, to be served exclusively at the Brewery Tasting Room until the last drop has been squeezed from the taps, and each with the possibility of blooming into a fully distributed Brewmaster’s Reserve."

The latest in the series is a Dark English Mild brewed by Al Duvall. Al has worked at the Brooklyn Brewery since 2011. In 1994 Al worked at Zip City brewpub, which was on E. 18th St. by Union Square, and stayed on when it became the Tap Room from 1997 to 1999. He then brewed at Heartland beginning in 2001, then Greenpoint Beer Works in 2003.

Al's Mild is a delicious, easy-to-drink 4% abv brew that provides a soft, round, comforting experience. The varied grain bill helps create a beer that is deep dark brown in color, but very easy on the palate, and low enough in alcohol to sip over a good long session. There's a pleasant hint of mild tanginess in the finish of this sturdy but gentle ale.
Just for the release party, some of the beer was infused with 9 lbs of cherries over 3 weeks. Originally, Al thought that he'd use the cherries in the whole batch, but it wasn't enough to impact the overall aroma and flavor, so he just made one keg of the sour cherry infused version of the mild. The fruit added flavor and aroma, but no significant amount of additional alcohol to the beer. Guests were offered the option to have the beer with varying amounts of the cherry-infused version added to their mug. Some opted to drink the cherry mild straight, which had a very intense flavor!
There was a cask version as well as kegs of draught available. The two versions were very similar, with the cask ale, understandably, being rounder and smoother than the carbonated style.

You can enjoy this unique, wonderful, exclusive beer at the Brooklyn Brewery tasting room on Fridays from 6pm-11pm, Saturdays from noon-8pm and Sundays from noon till 5pm. There's more on the Brooklyn Brewery blog.