July 30, 2009

Jever Pilsener

I was out the other night at Eulogy (one of the best beer bars in Philadelphia, in my, and many other people's, opinion) and asked for a lager. I've realized that a lot of my reviews focus on ales, because that's what I love. But others may have different tastes, and it's only fair I try to give the lager lovers (I say that like it's the worst thing in the world to be!) something they may be looking for every once in a while.

I asked for a recommendation and the bartender told me about Jever Pilsener, because, as she told me, it has a bit more hops than most lagers. I was sold!

I'm happy, and not surprised, to say I really liked it. I took a lager class at Tria Fermentation School (which I wrote about) about a month ago, and liked everything I tasted - of course, some more than others.

The pilsener poured nice - golden and clear. The smell was citrusy - lemony - and a bit grassy. You can definitely taste the hops, more so than in other lagers, but not overwhelmingly so. It's a very refreshing beer - as most lagers are - and at less than 5% ABV, you really can't go wrong. This is a great beer for someone like me - someone who loves the flavor of ales but likes to switch it up every once in a while.

July 27, 2009

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA


I thought I'd get right to the point with this one. What a great beer! The Big Eye IPA is brewed by Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego. (Side note - I'm going to San Diego in November for the Eagles/Chargers game and now know one place on my must-visit list!)

With an ABV of 7%, it's a bit on the stronger side, but, to me anyway, remains very drinkable.

The pour is a nice coppery orange. It smells as good as it tastes and looks - hoppy, citrusy, piney. Also a hint of caramel malt. The taste is great. Hoppy flavors that start off herbal and turn to citrus, but with a good malt flavor that helps balance the bitterness.

I've had this beer in my fridge for a couple of weeks now. I got it at Bella Vista Distributor when I bought a case of beer. They have an "exchange program" - buy a case and you can exchange one of the beers in the case for one that someone else has left behind from their case. Great idea and good way to try a new brew!

July 26, 2009

Summer Ale Festival

Last night I went with a friend to the Summer Ale Festival at the Philadelphia Zoo. We had a really good time, and I realized how much I love the zoo - I don't think I've been to one since I was 13! I'm definitely going back again soon.

The funniest part of the night came when my friend decided to give me a plug on her facebook page. She wrote "At the Summer Ale Festival with Philly Bear Girl" BEAR, not beer. We didn't realize it until another one of our friends texted me and told me what was written. It was appropriate given that we were at the zoo (although there are no bears), but so hysterically funny. I'm still laughing out loud as I'm writing this. I told everyone to be on the lookout for my other blog, which will be about wild animals.

There were a number of local brewers at the event, and all featured at least two of their summer ales. In addition, there were several local restaurants who were onhand to provide some delicious eats.

Now, I don't like to complain, especially about an event whose proceeds went to the education and preservation efforts at the zoo. But my friend and I got there at 7 - the event started at 6:30 - and there were already a number of vendors who were out of food. What? People had only begun arriving 1/2 an hour before that, and they were already out? It was like there was no communication between the event organizers and the restaurants that were participating.
The other problem was the long lines. I really don't think anyone was properly prepared for the number of people in attendance, and lines wound round and round and up and down. It was made interesting because while you were waiting in line, you were typically near some sort of animal, but it didn't take away from the fact that there was a whole lot of waiting going on.

Having said that, the event was a lot of fun, even if I didn't get to try all the beers I wanted to (lines were just too long). I had the wonderful Weyerbacher Double Simcoe and a Hops Infusion. I paired the Hops Infusion with a fish taco, and it was fantastic! I also had the Victory Golden Monkey with a piece of banana bread, and the Victory Storm King Stout with a piece of banana chocolate truffle. Mmmmm! The River Horse Double Wit and Victory Whirlwind Wit were a hit with my friend. I enjoyed the River Horse Hop Hazard Pale Ale, Victory Hop Devil and Yards Pale Ale.

Wow, when I write it all out like that, you probably wonder how many other beers I could have wanted to try! But believe me, there were a number of them. However, we did get some really good ones in and - much like I want this blog to be - I think the night was an eye-opening event for my friend and showed her just how many different types of beers she likes.

July 24, 2009

A lovable (Elysian) loser

I've loved some losers that embarrass me when I think about them to this day (my first boyfriend is a good example). But there's nothing embarrassing about loving the Elysian Loser Pale Ale, brewed by Elysian Brewery in Seattle, WA. I've been lucky enough to have enjoyed this beer at a few bars in Philly, although I believe I've heard it's a limited edition brewed to celebrate Sub Pop Records 20th anniversary.

The Loser is a bit darker than most pale ales - a coppery/reddish color. The taste is good, and drinkable, but it's not overly exciting. (I heard a woman who was drinking one say that it was the most unexciting good beer she's ever had.) And that's the thing - it's not going to make you exclaim how great it is, but you're going to find yourself drinking more than one and liking it. There's a good balance between the hops and malt, with the hops providing a touch of bitterness and the malt taste coming through as caramely (is that a word?) and bready. Alcohol is 6.5%, making this a bit of a stronger pale ale.

You might want to run from some of the losers you see sitting around you, but if you see this one, invite him over. You'll be glad you did.

July 16, 2009

Rare VOS

One of the things I'm loving best about writing about beer is all the new beers I'm being introduced to. Up until recently I was content to ask the bartender for a new IPA to try. And while I'll still ask the bartender for a suggestion, I've opened up the list of beers I'll try to include - well, pretty much everything. I think I mentioned before just how many types of beers I've realized I really, really like. I would recommend that you do the same. Don't be afraid to try something outside your tried and true and you just might surprise yourself. Now that I think about it, that advice applies to life and not just beer drinking!

Now that I'm done telling you how to live your life - on to the beer!

Last week at Jose Pistolas, I was introduced to a rare treat - the Rare VOS from Ommegang. It's considered a dark ale, but pours lighter than one might expect. It's orange/amber in color and has a decent-sized head. There's the yeasty smell typical of Belgian beers, but you'll also catch hints of of spice/nuttiness, and fruit as well. The taste is wonderful - starts off malty but finishes with a hop taste. It's a little bit sweet and a tiny bit spicy. (Hmm, sounds a little bit like me.) Overall very refreshing and delicious! And not too strong - about 6.5% ABV.

Don't drink this beer on rare occasions - drink it as frequently as you can. It's that good.

July 11, 2009

Pliny the Elder

I fell in love last night with an old man. His name is Pliny the Elder, and he is delicious! Seriously one of the best beers I've ever had. The brewers at Russian River Brewing certainly know what they're doing (they had me at Blind Pig IPA).

Pliny is an Imperial IPA. Now, for as much as I love the IPAs, Imperials are usually a bit too strong for me. There's something about their taste I'm not entirely in to - I think that for me, most tend to be too bitter. Not so with Pliny. I could easily have drank him all night (well, maybe not that easily since he comes in at a fairly hefty 8% ABV). But that taste! Citrusy, hoppy and not too bitter. Really a perfect balance here. The smell is wonderful - piney, grapefruity, floral. And what a pour - a nice deep orange with a good head.

The story of the real Pliny the Elder is interesting. He was a Roman naturalist, writer, historian - and, fittingly enough, he created the botanical name for hops with his contemporaries. He was killed in 79 AD while watching the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Pliny is somewhat difficult to find, but well worth looking for. When you do find him, you're going to want to make sure to order one immediately.

July 10, 2009

What's on tap at Jose Pistolas in July

Last night I had the chance to enjoy some Ommegang brews at Jose Pistolas. I had the Abbey, Rouge and Rare V.O.S. Very different flavors, and I really enjoyed the Abbey and especially the V.O.S. I'll write more about each later.

For those looking for some cool beer events this month (and who isn't?), check out what's happening at Jose Pistolas in July.

Tuesday the 14th is New Holland Beer night. From 5 pm until the beer is gone, there'll be flights of New Holland's best beers paired with cheese.

Friday the 17th is a Bell’s Barbecue. Bell’s beer will be on tap (including a firkin of the Two-Hearted Ale - a wonderful IPA that I really love) and plenty of chicken, ribs and pork. Hey, I'm a vegetarian and I'll still make it to this event - you have no excuse not to come by.

Tuesday the 21st, in addition to being my dad's birthday, is Doc’s Cider night. Although it's not beer, Doc's Ciders are not to be missed. Considered one of the best cider makers in America, Doc’s will be available in a variety of flavors including pear, apple, and raspberry starting at 5pm.

July 7, 2009

Troeg's Sunshine Pils - a wonderful summer brew

Up until recently, it seemed the sun had forgotten how to shine in Philadelphia. Which isn’t to say you couldn’t find some sunshine if you knew where to look.

Take, for instance, the Troegs Sunshine Pils from Troegs Brewing Company in Harrisburg, PA. This German-style pilsner is sure to brighten up any day. It starts with the pour – a nice, clear yellow in the glass. You can almost taste summer just looking at it! The smell is sweet – faintly citrusy, faintly herbal. Next comes the taste. Crisp. Smooth. A little hoppy but not overwhelmingly so. And not a lot of carbonation, making it very drinkable.
Another great thing about this beer is its relatively low ABV – it comes in at just 5.3%, which means you can easily enjoy more than one.

My advice? Don’t hold out for a day on which you need some sunshine – this beer is meant be enjoyed everyday. It's perfect for a hot summer day (I imagine having one after an afternoon spent mowing the lawn – if I had a lawn to mow!) or on one of those days when the thunderstorms come rolling in to break up the summer humidity. And since it’s only available May through August, make sure to get one while you can.

July 3, 2009

Session beers - another mystery solved

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "session beers". I had an ill-defined idea of what this meant, so today I sat down for a session to figure it out.

In a nutshell, a session beer is one that is less than 5% ABV (alcohol by volume). The reason for this is simple - a session beer meant to be drunk over a period of time without the drinker becoming drunk, or having "their legs taken out from under them". Ostensibly, the lower the ABV, the more you can drink. Of course some of why alcohol affects people differently depends on factors outside of the alcohol content of the beer, but it's a good gauge and it seems that around 5% is a pretty good number for the majority of people.

Another feature of a session beer is a balance between the hops and malts. In addition to not getting the drinker drunk, a session beer is not meant to overwhelm the palate, which is where the balance of flavors comes in.

While session beers are a different breed than some of the more extreme beers available today (and you know I like plenty of them!), I'd like to point out that these beers - of which there are literally thousands - are quite tasty in their own right. They may not have you exclaiming about how wonderful they are while you're drinking it, but that's another point about them - you're supposed to be able to drink a session beer without feeling like you want to talk about it.

Finally, session beers are typically more reasonably priced than a lot of the big beers.

For my money, anything that I can drink for a while, without worrying about getting drunk, and at a decent price is something that I can stand behind.