Thursday, June 30, 2011

TWIOT: Gratuitous Beer Post

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." - Benjamin Franklin

I knew there was a reason why Ol' Ben is my favorite amongst the Founding Fathers. Even if beer is wholly an invention of man, it really is something that, if consumed in responsible quantities, enhances life and good times. The key word there is responsible, as really, getting piss drunk or developing a dependency on alcohol are both not cool at all. But this isn't about lecturing, it's about enjoying the greatness that is beer.

Now, for those who do know me, I'm not really into the garden variety light beers from the major breweries that are usually associated with sudsy consumption. That isn't to say that I'm a beer snob. No, you're a snob when you look down on people for drinking what they drink. If you want to chug Coors Light or Miller Lite, hey, be my guest. Don't expect me to partake though, because I don't like it. That isn't really a slight against the mainstream brewers either. I have hipster tendencies when it comes to beer, but I used to house the shit out of Budweiser before I realized that even drinking one or two of them would give me a hangover the next day. I also enjoy Corona, Guinness, Yuengling and all the different offerings from Sam Adams, and really, if you see advertisements for a beer on TV, they're mainstream.

But then again, since they're all over the place, you know about them. Again, I'm about to get somewhat beer hipster on your asses, but at the same time, I AIN'T CARE if I set the path for these beers to go mainstream. Why? Because they're that good and they need to be shared by people. I'm a firm believer that if something is good, it deserves to be lauded and sampled by everyone. So I'm gonna give some of my favorite off-the-radar beers and hope that you can at least find them.

Awww yeah
Photo Credit: Me

That right there is 3 Philosophers Belgian-style Quadrupel produced by Brewery Ommegang based in Cooperstown, NY. Ommegang is an abbey-style brewery in America, proving that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that no, the monks over in Belgium aren't the only ones who know how to make top-notch beer. I was turned onto this by a buddy of mine who works for Origlio Beverage Distributors, and it has literally changed my life, at least in terms of what kinds of beers I look for. It has a strong, ale flavor, typical of most Belgians, but it has the hint of cherry. The reason is that 2 percent of it by volume is a kriek, or a cherry lambic.

Now, there are some terms you might need to know going forward that I probably should have introduced. The Belgians have a sort of nomenclature system when it comes to their beers. You have dubbel, tripel and quadrupel. Those names imply a hierarchy, which is there, both in flavor and in potency. Dubbels are traditionally the weakest in terms of alcohol by volume (ABV), while Quadrupels are strongest. That isn't to say dubbels are weak at all. The least potent abbey-style ale will be inordinately stronger than your typical macrobrew here in the States. Also, dubbels are usually brown ales, tripels blond and quadrupels having more of a deep, golden color reminiscent of traditional Pilsner-style lagers you find in America (Bud, Miller etc.). The color is really the only thing that a quadrupel has in common with a traditional American lager, because the flavor, alcohol content and overall quality blows most mainstream beer here out of the water.

Furthermore, lambic-style beers are brews made with fruit. The most common one that I've seen is framboise, which literally translates from the French to raspberry. It's the tastiest of the ones I've tried and it also mixes well with other beers, specifically a chocolate stout. Kriek, pomme (apple) and even cranberry (Sam Adams makes a good one in that style) are also popular lambics. The ABV is traditionally lower than what you'd find in abbey/Trappist style beers, but then again, lambics are generally brewed with lighter flavors in mind, rather than the strong, distinctive ale-flavors in other Belgians.

Back to 3 Philosophers, I'm not really a big fan of cherry flavoring most of the time. I tried Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat and almost threw up. However, the slight hint of cherry flavoring in this beer works on such a great level. It plays with the stronger beer flavor in a way that makes it smoother and deceptively less "alcohol" tasting than you'd think for a beer with 9.8% ABV.

Photo Credit: Me

This is another Belgian-style beer from an American company, this time based out of Fort Bragg, CA. North Coast Brewing Co. is responsible for Brother Thelonious, and while I might be speaking out of turn, this might just be my favorite dubbel-style ale right now. Don't get me wrong, Chimay makes a fine one as well, and other companies shine. Abbey-style dubbel, along with stout, porter, traditional Czech Pilsner and Indian pale ale, is in my top five of styles of beer. There are a lot of great breweries, here and in the abbeys across the Atlantic, making quality dark strong ales.

However, what makes Brother Thelonious stand out most? I think it has the cleanest, smoothest taste, not sacrificing flavor or ABV but having the least hint of acridity that sometimes comes with brewing in this style. It's so drinkable that you can take out a four pack before you know it, which is good or bad depending on how inebriated you wanted to get.

The boar approves!
Photo Credit: Me

This might be a little harder to find for you if you're not in Philly, eastern PA or somewhere near there. If you can find it though, Lancaster Brewing Co. Hop Hog IPA is well worth the purchase. Most IPAs (India pale ale) are acquired tastes, as they're very bitter on account of the massive amounts of hops used for brewing. That being said, if you do have the palette for it, then you probably love drinking them. It truly is a love/hate beer.

I like Hop Hog best because it does the best job of balancing out the bitterness with the citrus notes underneath. Plus, as most IPAs do, it pairs well with spicy foods, and I'm a huge fan of the foods that set your mouth on fire.

Photo Credit: Me

Ah yes, Germany's submission to the list is Schneider Aventinus, a Weizenbock-style beer from Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider und Sohn. Weizenbocks are cousins to the Hefeweizen-style German brews, which means it's a wheat beer with an unfiltered appearance and texture. It might look murky, but it's supposed to be that way, and actually they can be quite delicious with fruity undertones. Aventinus is a beer that I usually have when I go to my local "beer snob" bar, because it's a safe pick. I know it's going to be there and I know I'll enjoy the hell out of it. Then again, a "safe pick" for me is very adventurous for someone whose idea of a fancy beer is Guinness. Again, nothing wrong with that, I'm just saying. The first time I had it, I was absolutely shocked at how it tasted, actually. You look at a darker beer and think you'll get coffee, chocolate, honey and other heavier, more wintry flavors associated with brews of those color. Not with Aventinus, which boasts banana, apple and even floral undertones.

The OG of Pilsners
Photo Credit: Me

You know the Czechs have been brewing beer longer than there's been a country associated with their nationality? Then again, that goes for the Belgians too, but a lot of what is drunk here in America is a direct descendant of what brewers in the Czech Republic have been doing for about a millennium now. Budweiser even took its name from a Czech brewer and called its product a Pilsner. I'm not sure there are many beer afficianados who'd be okay with either one of those things, but it is what it is.

That being said, Pilsner Urquell, from the brewery of the same name, is one of the original brewers in this style. This is the idealized version of the mainstream American lager. It's clean, crisp, refreshing and has an unmistakable beer flavor that isn't bogged down by a stale or skunky taste that at least I find in most "light" beers (especially Miller Lite... I fuckin' hate that shit, but hey, if you like it, you like it. I can't stress that enough). I don't know, I think if you want to drink an "exotic" beer and you're used to drinking the same ol', this might be the best entree into the world of craft and import beers. It's the best of what's around, I think.

But hey, if you want to be adventurous, be adventurous. Try new things, different things, things that you might not otherwise drink unless someone offered it to you to try. Life is based on new experiences to add to the familiar ones that you already have. I'm not saying that you'll stop drinking Miller Lite or whatever after trying new beers, and I honestly don't want to promise that. There's a place for everything in this world. For as much shit as some people give me for being a "beer snob", I refuse to give it back for people drinking the "same shit". At the same time, I still think people should try everything they can, everything that looks remotely appealing to them.

That means trying a craft brew or an import or a special edition or even a homebrew. There are people out there making fantastic beers who are completely amateurs to the process. Great beer is found everywhere, and again, if you enjoy it responsibly, you'll find a good time wherever there's good beer.

Remember you can contact TH and ask him questions about wrestling, life or anything else. Please refer to this post for contact information. He always takes questions!

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