Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rediscovering The Value of a Session Beer - Brawler Ale

I picked up some Brawler Ale from Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia over the weekend and opened my first bottle the other night.  I was quite impressed by the malt flavor and overall color and experience of the beer.  It presented well, very balanced and was real enjoyable.... and yet I kept feeling like something just wasn't quite right.

As I prepared dinner this evening my wife was enjoying a Brawler and commented how much she liked it.  So I reached in and grabbed another.  As I opened it I actually bothered to read the label this time (yes, like most men I don't always RTFM) and then I realized why it had struck me as odd.

"crafted in the style of English session ales"

Ahh.... that explains it.  I've been on a Dogfish Head trip lately enjoying Midas Touch, 60 Minute IPA and others all that have higher alcohol levels. So as asession beer crosses my lips are like "hey! were's the rest of the beer???"

Don't get me wrong, I really like this beer.  Good flavor and enjoyable to drink as I sit here writing this post and watching a hockey game.  I think just in knowing that it is a session beer made a difference and makes it a complete beer experience.

Lesson learned?  Read the full label and know what I'm buying and drinking.  Also, not every enjoyable beer has to be super hopped or high alcohol.

(Oh and if you're wondering what a session beer is, here's a great article from Beer Advocate.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beer Named After a Town like Durango Better Be Good

Durango is a small town with a huge personality.  Surrounded by beautiful mountains with a vibrant river flowing through it, Durango conveys a bold attitude and fresh perspective that this mid-Atlantic suburbanite finds intoxicating (everytime we visit, I long to quit my job and just move).

So you can imagine the expectations that go with a beer bearing this town's name.  Sure enough, the fine brews from the Durango Brewing Company live up to the spirit of Durango.

I had the pleasure sampling two wonderful Durango Brewing Company brews during my trip -- the Durango Amber Ale and the Durango Wheat Beer. 

According to the company's Web site, the Amber Ale as a "deep amber color, medium body, and mild hop bitterness making it a well balanced refreshing beer."  Personally, I found the Amber Ale to be better tasting than  most ambers, but compared to the the other fine ambers I've sampled lately it didn't really stand out above the rest. Definately worth tasting again but nothing to warrant another trip across the country.

As for the Wheat Beer, I DID find it unique enough that it stood out.  To many people when you say "Wheat Beer" they think "Hefeweizen" in the German tradition.  But as I learned at a recent evening at DC's Churchkey, the "Wheat Beer" label goes way beyond that pale expectation.

And Durango's Wheat Beer follows this tradition with it's "American-Style Wheat with domestic barley and wheat malts."  In just looking at the beer it has the same appearance as a standard smooth flowing lager.  But upon putting it to your lips you realize that it not only combines a good drinkability with additional flavor and personality.  The combination just makes it memorable.

Apparently this beer is a 2007 Colorado State Fair winner -- and I can see why.  If I could have brought some home, I would have snuck it into my luggage.

My one regret with this brewery is that I couldn't spend any time at their facility.  We stopped in the restuarant/bar for dinner and it looked like a fun place with a focus on good beer.  Tables are set up for socializing and drinking with not much emphasis on food (although they do serve food).  The environment just begged for a session beer and spending time with friends and enjoyable brews.

Alas, as I was with my family and mother-in-law this was not quite the environment suitable for a family dinner.  However, as a beer drinker I longed to escape from our hotel and venture back to sip a few brews.

On our next trip, this place is definitely on my to-do list.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Good things come to those who wait

A break from my reviews of beers from my recent trip to Durango, CO. But instead a lesson learned from home brewing.

As you may remember, I've been experimenting with brewing my own beer with a Mr. Beer home brew kit. Back in July I brewed up a batch of German Hefeweizein.  It was an interesting experiment because it uses a mix of some standard Mr. Beer recipes but also adds some hops pellets during the fermentation.  The instructions for this recipe also recommend lagering the beer for at least a month.

So I dutifully let it ferment the proper amount of time (I generally go a week longer than any given recipe recommends), bottled it and let it lager for the one month recommended period.  And when the day came to open it and savor my labors I was ..... underwhelmed.

Flavor was bleah... flat... limited.... nothin'.   It was the first batch I'd brewed that I really didn't want to drink.

So I remembered back to my reading about lagering improving the flavor and let it sit.  Each time I walked by I was thought about giving it another chance but decided against it.

Last night, after letting it lager for 4+ months I figured it was time to give it a shot.  And you know what?  IT ROCKED!   It didn't pour like a standard hefeweizen (with the unfiltered cloud) and looked almost like an amber in the glass.  But it not only tasted like a full hefeweizen but also finished off with enough hint of hop that it had a very pleasant aftertaste.

And the lesson learned?  Have patience.  Not every batch/beer/project is going to be perfect right off the bat.  But it's okay to experiment and give things a chance.  And now I'm really looking forward to the rest of this batch.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Journey Really IS the Destination

Today's entry on my beer journey while on my trip to Durango, Colorado is a video-blog entry. Cheers!