August 29, 2009

Craft beer vs light beer

I've recently started publishing the caloric content of the beers I'm writing about because I had a couple of requests to add that. I'm worried, though, that people (okay, women) are going to focus on that number and not be able to see beyond it. We women are a funny bunch that way. We get a number in our head of what's acceptable - be it a pant size, a bra size, the age we want to get married - and we can't seem to let it go.

The advertisers of the mass marketed beer will have you believe that the lower the calories the better. Nutritionists would agree. I, of course, see the rationale in this. I'm certainly not saying that calories don't matter. I really do believe in moderation in all things (oh, I can hear a lot of my friends laughing at that one).

But the difference is, these craft beers are so good that you should take the time to smell the beer, really let it sit in your mouth and get the full flavor rather than just mindlessly throwing them back the way you would whatever ice-cold "goodness" you've been enjoying up until now. Am I saying that I always only drink one or two? Anyone who knows me, reads this blog or follows me on twitter and sees some of my ridiculous, late-night tweets knows that's not the case. But I have learned to appreciate what I'm drinking, and think that you should give yourself the chance to, too. Regardless of what the number is that comes along with enjoying it.

August 21, 2009

Uh-oh, beer snobbery is not good

Okay, just read this article that the Beer Babe posted on her facebook page and felt the need to write immediately.

It's not good to be a beer snob! And after reading the article, I'd like to think I'm not one. (Please someone agree with me!) I'm really not writing reviews and learning about beer so that I can make someone else feel inadequate in their knowledge. No, I'm doing this so that I can entertain and inform so that you can feel good about going out and ordering something different. I might on occasion laugh at someone's choice of favorite beer (yikes, sounds very snobbish to me) but I'm laughing with the person not at them (um, okay).

The thing is, I'm not really a beer geek either (not nearly knowledgeable enough). I guess I'm an aspiring beer geek.

And when was the last time a snob said they aspired to be a geek?

Case closed.

August 20, 2009

Am I a beer snob?

I know the answer to this question and it's an emphatic YES. This was proven to me (again) last night. I went to Rembrandt's and ordered Great Lakes Brewing Company's Commodore Perry IPA. I loved it and am only not reviewing it because I didn't really drink it in a way where I'm ready to review it (meaning really paying attention to all that I would write about in a review. I just knew it was gooood!). Look for that in the future.

However, let me get back to the issue of my snobbery. A guy friend met me and ordered .... a Bud Light Lime. I started laughing and said that when I came in the first thing I did was look for the hoppiest beer the bar offered, which was in stark contrast to his ordering the shittiest beer they had (sorry Anheuser-Busch). I meant it as a joke (although I'm not going to lie about cringing when he ordered it) but it sparked an intense conversation between me and him and the helpful gentleman sitting on my other side who insisted that Miller Lite is the best beer around.

Now, I agree that there is room for everyone's taste. (Okay, I don't really agree with that but for the sake of trying to sound open-minded I'll at least write it. I'm talking flavor. Where is the flavor in a BLL or ML?) For instance, I'm not a huge fan of certain types of beers - sour beers, German style beers. But I feel that the ones that I've tried are at least craft beers. They're not just mass-produced mass-marketed drones of the beer world.

As I'm writing this, I think I'm gaining clarity on what I'm snobbish about. It's the "mass" part of this process. The genericism (is that a word?) of the big beers out there. There's something about a microbrew that to me speaks of someone who isn't content just to say "yes, a beer is made up water and malts and hops and yeast". No, they want to see what they can do with those ingredients to bring us a new taste, a new flavor.

The guy who waxed philosophically on his love of Miller Lite insisted that microbrews are just a phase. I tried explaining that when you had as many people making a living as are from microbrews, it was likely to be around for a while. He said that people don't like going to bars and trying something they know nothing about.

Which is a good point. Let's face it, as much as we'd like to believe we're all independent thinkers and in control of our every action, we are creatures of habit and suspect to outside influences. So let's think about this - who does the advertising? Whose billboards are plastered everywhere you look? It's not the microbrews of the world. And I agree that people are scared of trying new things (that whole "creature of habit" thing again). It makes sense that people believe they really like Miller Lite or Bud, because it's what they've been drinking and what they know and what they're told is going to make them sexy to the opposite sex.

So let's try to help me out, people. Help me avoid debates with friends and strangers alike, and maybe even get rid of the label "snob". Just try a new beer. Tell the bartender what kind of beer you typically drink and ask for a recommendation. As I'm fond of saying, you just may surprise yourself.

August 16, 2009

Lagunitas IPA

No clever names here. The Lagunitas IPA gets straight to the point - it's an IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Company, and it's a great one. I've been drinking it for many months now. I had one last night and finally decided to write about it. I tried to take a picture, but my camera kept insisting I had to "change the battery pack". I hope that just means "charge the battery", which I'm currently doing. Then maybe I'll be forced to have another one today, so I can get my picture.

Lagunitas (or, as can be found on their web site LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS) is in Petaluma, CA. I'm thinking there's a trip to the left coast in my near future to visit all these incredible breweries. Maybe I'll take advantage of that Jet Blue All-You-Can-Jet Pass. But I digress.

This IPA pours a nice deep amber, just like you would expect from an IPA. The aroma is hoppy - citrusy, piney - which isn't surprising given that there are 43 hops in the beer. Taste is wonderful - a smooth bitterness from the hops mixed with a sweet maltiness that comes from 65 malts. ABV is 5.7%, nice and low. Comes in at about 180 calories.

I'll be as succinct in my wrap up as Lagunitas was in the naming of this beer - drink it. You won't be disappointed.

August 11, 2009

Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

Ah, finally getting back to my true love - the IPA. Last night I was lucky enough to try the wonderful Stone Cali-Belgique IPA while at Tria. It was as good as I could have hoped. The Stone Brewing Co bills the Cali-Belgique as the "identical twin to Stone IPA that was raised in a Belgian culture". This is a fitting description, as it seems the main difference is the addition of a Belgian yeast strain.

The pour is a pale amber. (One of these days I'm going to remember to take my camera out with me everytime I'm going for a drink! You really have to see some of these beers to appreciate them. I take that back. You really have to taste these beers to appreciate them!) The smell is similar to the Stone IPA - hoppy, floral. The addition of the yeast gives this a "breadier" (I was trying to stay away from the word "yeast" again) smell, but the fruity aromas are definitely there. There's a bitterness to the taste, and as we know, that's what I like. ABV isn't too bad - 6.9%. For something this tasty, I'll take it!

The Cali-Belgique comes in a 22 oz bottle, and from the best I can determine that bottle has close to 400 calories. I'm trying to figure out if this is right, so will update if necessary. I had this on draft, so at best I had 16 oz. Still - remember - everything in moderation. I wouldn't pass this beer up just because of it's caloric content. Instead, I'd go for a nice long run and not think twice about it.

August 9, 2009

Victory Prima Pils

Another lager! But it's a good one and I'm glad to be writing about it.

The Prima Pils is a German pilsener brewed by Victory Brewing Company, my neighbors in Downingtown, PA. This beer is highly regarded by critics and regular, every day beer drinkers (like me).

The pour is pale yellow. The smell is a bit grassy and citrusy with some floral in there as well. The taste is clean and crisp, just what you want from a pilsener, and more flavorful than most beers of this style. There's not much malt in this one, it's more about the hops, making it more bitter, but not overwhelmingly so. At 5.3% ABV, this is a great session beer. And even better, it comes in at only 150 calories. Not bad at all!

(I've included the calories because I've had a couple of requests lately to include this information. I think it's a great suggestion, especially since one of my goals is to promote drinking of good, craft beer. I hear a lot that women are afraid that drinking beer will make them heavy. I hate to break it to you, but too much of anything will make you heavy! Don't hate on the beer!)

August 5, 2009

Beer Glassware

I just got back from an amazing weekend in Boston. My 4 days there included a bar crawl, sight seeing, shopping, celebrating my birthday and - to top it all off - seeing Coldplay in concert. Doesn't get much better than that, does it?

I stayed at friends of a friend's place the first two nights (then it was hotels). These two were as passionate about beer as I am, which led to some great conversation about beers, brewing and proper glassware. I'd never given much thought to the type of glass I used to drink a beer out of (and, until recently, would even just drink right out of the bottle).

Turns out it's not just a marketing ploy (as so much is these days. And I'm saying that as someone who makes a living from marketing!). There are real reasons that different glasses should be used for different beers. It doesn't just make the beer look prettier, it really can have an effect on the taste.

There are 6 main types of glasses that a beer enthusiast will want to own (I just ordered mine online).

Pint glass
(for some fun, go to Type in "pint glass" and click on images. What??)
If you've ever had a beer on tap at a bar, you've likely had it in a pint glass. These are good, basic glasses and popular in bars because of their durability. The British-style pint glass, which is bulged near the top, is good for pale ales, bitter, stouts.

Pilsner glass
The pilsner glass is tall, slender and cylindrical. The shape of the glass helps focus the hop aroma, while helping the beer maintain its head. This is a great glass for lagers, including pilsners (obviously, given the name), maibocks, and dopplebocks.

Weizen glass
This is the perfect glass or enjoying weizen (wheat) beers. It's tall, with a slightly bowed-out shape and narrower top. These attributes help concentrate the aromas of this type of beer, while also allowing for enough room to accomodate the big heads associated with these types of beer.

Goblets (or Chalice)
There is a technical difference between a goblet and chalice; a goblet is thinner and long-stemmed, while a chalice is heavier and thick-walled. However, they're in the same family and both are great for heavier, malty beers (dubbel, tripel, quadrupel, Belgian IPAs) where the hop aroma doesn't play as important a role in the taste of the beer. The bowl on these glasses should be big enough to hold the entire beer, and are designed to hold the head.

The design of this glass - tulip-shaped, with the top of the glass pushing out to form a "lip" and a bulbous body - is perfect for more aromatic beers such as strong ales, imperial IPAs, and imperial stouts.

Clink with confidence with a mug! Mugs are sturdy, heavy, and come with a handle. They typically hold a lot of beer. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The large, open mouth allows for the release of the floral herbal bouquet, while also maximizing the malty aroma of the beer.

Now, I realize that not everyone is going to run out and buy a set of these different types of glasses. But the next time you're out at your favorite watering hole, pay attention to the type of glass your drink is served in. It really does make a difference!