Archive for the ‘Style Profiles’ Category

Style Profile: Winter Warmer

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Winter warmer is a traditional style of winter seasonal beers which can trace its origin back many centuries to the wassail beer punch served to holiday carolers in medieval England. Back then, ale was mixed with baked apples, cinnamon, ginger and other spices to create a delicious concoction that would warm you on the coldest winter nights. You can still make this wonderful beer cocktail yourself: check our article on the topic for more info and a recipe. Eventually, brewers began crafting beer that mimicked wassail style and flavor – brews that are sweet and malty with strong fruit and spice flavors. Traditionally, winter warmers have a medium body that’s extremely viscous. They are very sweet with little hop bitterness to them. They tend to be quite strong in alcohol, around 7 to 9%, which can be great on a frigid evening or anytime you want to relax.

Now there are many brewers who will make any ol’ beer they feel like and slap ‘winter warmer’ on the label. These beers can be great in their own way, but they can’t really be compared to more traditional winter warmers. Sam Adams Ol’ Fezziwig, which is only available in their holiday 12-packs, is probably the best American version of a true winter warmer. Across the Atlantic, Samuel Smith makes a great version known as “Winter Welcome” that’s worth a try. Avery’s Old Jubilation is also worth seeking out.  There are plenty of other great winter warmers out there, too.

What’s your favorite winter beer? Next time you try it let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the #mybeer hashtag.

Style Profile: Oyster Stout

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Oysters in beer? Yup, it’s true. Although it might seem strange, stouts with oysters in them have been around for almost 100 years. With their rich yet mellow flavor and sometimes grainy texture, stouts and porters have long been known as great beers to pair with oysters. Famed 19th century UK prime minister Benjamin Disraeli was known to frequently enjoy this delicious combo, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that someone thought to combine the two.

The first stout with oysters in it was brewed in New Zealand in 1929. The brewer added a handful of oyster meat right into the boil and hoped for the best. Fortunately the boiling and filtering process removes any trace of actual shellfish in your pint, and the flavor remains.

In 1938, a London brewery by the name of Hammerton created the first oyster stout in England, which was soon followed by several other breweries, including the Castletown Brewery on the Isle of Man.  By the 1960’s, this style and the Hammerton brewery was all but extinct. Fortunately a new brewery on the Isle of Man, Bushy’s, revived the tradition in the mid-1980’s. The beer is regrettably only available on the tiny island in the Irish sea, but from what I hear, if you can get a hold of it you’ll love it.

The oyster stout remains quite rare, but there are some craft brewers who have produced it from time to time. Rogue and Dogfish Head have each done one-off batches of the style, but finding them might be difficult. Yards Brewing Co. in Philly is known to use oysters in their Love Stout. There are also some so-called “oyster stouts” like Marstons‘ that do not contain actual oysters but are designed to be paired with the shellfish.

What do you think of oyster stout? Does the idea sound disgusting or delicious? If you know of where to find some in your area, let us know in the comments or on twitter.

Five Alternative Winter Beers

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

winterBeers
Winter will soon be here. Beer can be a great way to shake off the wintertime chills, so here’s a look at a few beers beyond the typical seasonal offerings that will warm your body and wet your tongue.

Baltic porter - This powerful porter was originally produced in England and shipped to the people of Finland, Poland and other countries near the Baltic Sea to help them survive the bitter winter. The alcohol in these beers is extremely intense, usually weighing in around 7 to 10% Alc. by volume. The taste is equally mighty and quite dry, usually with notes of dark chocolate and rye. It’s one of the most intense variations of porter available. Sinebrychoff is perhaps the most popular and tradition version. Smuttynose produces a wonderful version as well.

Quadrupel - Quads have developed a reputation among beer geeks as some of the most complex and interesting beers. Whether or not you agree with this sentiment, you have to appreciate quad’s ability to combine a strong alcohol percentage (frequently over 10%) with a smoothness and rounded maltiness that Baltic and other strong ales can’t pull off. Chimay Blue is the must try in this category, followed closely by St. Bernardus 12. If you can ever get your hands on a Trappist Westvleteren 12, which is only legally available from the Belgian monastery where it is produced, consider yourself lucky. It’s one of the most sought after brews in the world. There is even a black market of sorts for this beer in America, where people will pay $25 or more for a single 12oz bottle.

Milk Stout – Lactose, the type of sugar found in milk, is not able to be fermented by brewing yeast. As a result, the lactose remains in the finished beer, giving it a pleasantly sweet and slightly creamy flavor. Additionally, lactose can help smooth out harshness or excess bitterness that can occur in some heavier beers. Overall it makes a delicious and wonderfully accessible stout that will warm you all winter long.  Left Hand Brewing produces perhaps the most popular version of this in the US.

Russian Imperial Stout – Like Baltic porter, this dark beer was originally produced in England and shipped abroad to citizens of snowier lands. While the beer is similar to Baltic porters in strength and viscosity, Russian imperial stouts tend to be much sweeter and less dry than their Baltic brethren with plenty of dark brown foam for the head. Old Rasputin from North Coast is the most popular style among American craft brewers. Stone’s version and Victory’s Storm King are also worth trying.

Old Ale - This isn’t a name for beer that’s been sitting on the shelf too long. Old ale refers to a beer style specifically designed to be aged. While many different beers can be aged well, Old ales benefit greatly from maturation time. They are  lightly carbonated and very sweet with fruity notes of raisins or figs. In many ways, the flavor of old ales resemble brandy, which also benefits from aging.  The most well known version of old ale is Thomas Hardy’s ale, which has been produced intermittently since the 1960’s. Sometimes you can find 30 or 40 year old bottles of the stuff on Ebay.

What beers do you like to drink in the winter? Let us know next time you have one by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Biere de Garde

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

biereDeGarde

The French are not particularly well known for their beer. Although wine gets most of the attention in France, there are some wonderful French styles of beer that are worth seeking out. Today we’re looking at Biere de Garde, a style which makes a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving.

Biere de Garde is one of the few beer styles native to France. It’s produced mainly in the Pas-de-Calais region not too far from where saison is produced in Belgium. The close proximity between these two regions is fitting as they share many common characteristics. In many ways, biere de garde can be thought of as the sweeter cousin to saison. Both beers are light in flavor and were originally produced to provide sustenance during the hot summer months. However, there are some key differences between them. While saison is light and crisp with a spicy taste and floral aroma, biere de garde tends to be slightly malty with mild hops and a subtly sweet flavor with notes of honey or butter. Biere de garde’s combination of malty and light flavors makes it a fantastic beer to pair with many meals.

As we discussed last week, there a lot of great beers that will enhance the various courses of a Thanksgiving meal, but if you’re looking for something that will do well with all of it, look no further than biere de garde. If you haven’t heard of biere de garde before, don’t feel bad. It’s a fairly rare style, but it’s been making a come back in recent years. American craft brewers  The Lost Abbey do a great job with there  Avant Garde ale and  Jolly Pumpkin‘s  Oro De Calabaza isn’t bad either, although it’s probably a bit lighter than most bieres de garde. Within the French examples,  3 Monts from Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre is the classic version. Jenlain from Brasseurs Duyck is also worth a try, as is Castelain Biere De Garde.

Whatever you pair with your turkey day meal, all of us at Beeriety hope it’s a good one.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Beeriety crew!

A History In Beer: Pre-Prohibition Lagers & Steam Beer

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

We Want Beer

Despite a growing craft beer movement, American beer is still dominated by the big three brewers: Coors, Miller and Anheuser-Busch, who account for almost 80% of all beer sold in America. The vast majority of their beer is light lager, a poorly regarded style developed by these three companies to maximize profits, not taste. American beer wasn’t always like this though. There was a time when the average beer bought in the US wasn’t a bland, watery beer.

Prior to Prohibition’s ratification in 1920, America was not dominated not by a handful of giant brewers selling lagers but by thousands of small breweries and brewpubs serving all kinds of beers in their own neighborhoods. The styles available varied widely around the country and could be anything from a German style lager to a heavy English stout.

Sadly, all of this was put on hold for thirteen long years.  When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the crippled beer industry was slow to regain its former prominence. Many smaller brewers had given up their craft for other professions. Instead, the big companies who had survived Prohibition by switching to other operations grew bigger, taking the place of the local brewery. This put an end to local variety and regional styles, and soon the light lager was dominant throughout the country. By 1978, there were just 45 brewers in the entire country, a far cry from the 2,700 breweries that existed a century earlier.

anchor_bottleMany styles and flavors unique to certain parts of the country that flourished prior to Prohibition were lost when brewing resumed in America. One such style was the flaked maize lager. As the name implies, this beer was brewed with flaked maize, an unmalted cereal grain, instead of barley. Although the light lagers peddled by the big companies today use corn as a cheap ingredient, flaked maize was hardly a bargain back in the day. It could cost almost three times more than most domestic malts. Flaked maize lagers were said to be strong with a grainy sweetness. Since no one produces this style today, it’s hard to know for sure.

One pre-Prohibition style that is still produced is steam beer. Czech and German immigrants brought their lager brewing techniques with them when they came to California in the 1800’s. The temperatures in California however were considerably warmer than in Eastern Europe. This created a problem as lagers depend on colder temperatures to brew properly. The result was an entirely new style of beer: steam beer. Lager beer brewed at ale temperatures creates a delicious hybrid of an ale and lager, combining the crispness of a lager with the fruity sweetness of an ale.

The style was single-handedly brought back from the brink of extinction by Fritz Maytag, who purchased the fledgling Anchor Steam brewery in 1965. He reformulated the beer’s ingredients, becoming the first in America to brew without adjuncts or fillers since Prohibition, thus making him the first modern craft brewer.

Anchor Steam copyrighted the term ‘steam beer’ so now the style is properly known as California common, although many still use the former term. Whatever you call it, steam beer makes for a great beer any time of the year. Let us know next time you have one by tweeting what you drank and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Try These Five Barrel-Aged Beers

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Barrel-Aged Beer

Barrel-aging is nothing new in the world of wine and liquor; aging beer in barrels, however, is a relatively new practice that’s gaining in popularity. Today, we’re going to take a look at how it works and some barrel-aged beers that everyone should try.

Beer is usually placed in barrels for aging after primary fermentation is complete and before it has been carbonated. A variety of barrels can be used, but brewers frequently use barrels which have previously held wine or liquor. After anywhere from several months to several years in a barrel, the beer will absorb some of the flavors and aromas left over from the wine or liquor. Then, the beer will be carbonated and bottled for your drinking enjoyment.

The barreling process adds additional complexity to the taste and aroma of a beer. Sometimes a brewer will simply age an existing beer he has in his (or her) repertoire, but many of the more adventurous will craft a recipe specially suited to benefit from the barreling process. This could be an extra malty brew that will blend well with the sweet flavors of rum or a crisp light beer that will complement the light flavors of a chardonnay.

However it is done, barrel-aged beer is an exciting area that craft brewers are exploring with enthusiasm and passion. Be sure to try one if you haven’t yet. Some of our favorites include:

Stone Brewing Co. Oaked Arrogant Bastard – The barrel-aged version of Stone’s infamous Arrogant Bastard. Trying this alongside the regular version would be a good introduction to how barrels can enhance beer.

Brooklyn Brewery Manhattan Project – This  beer was a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewery and David Wondrich, drinks editor of Esquire magazine. It was aged in rye whiskey barrels for a wonderfully smoky aroma and taste.

Allagash Curieux – Aged in Jim Beam barrels for 8 weeks, this one is a must try.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton – A fantastically complex yet still light ale with notes of oak and vanilla.

Smuttynose Brewing Oaked Tripel Penetration – A great twist on a traditional Belgian style tripel. The heavy oak notes blended well with the light flavors of a tripel.

What’s your favorite barrel-aged beer? Have you tried a barrel-aged brew you would like to recommend? Let us know next time you have one by tweeting what you drank and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

A Hard Look At Hard Ciders

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Ciders

We’ve been discussing the many different beers that are associated with the autumn months lately. For many though, beer is not the only drink strongly connected to the fall. Hard cider is also quite popular this time of the year. Although it doesn’t get the same attention as the craft brewers, there are a number of great craft cider producers out there worth a try. Today we’re going to change gears a bit look at some cider worth a try.

Before we get to the particular ciders though, I should mention that just like there’s many different styles of beer, there are many different styles of cider. Because the sweeter varieties are the most popular here in the US, many folks think all cider is like that, but there are many different versions out there, made from many different apples. The taste of cider can range from syrupy sweet to dry as champagne, so before you cast off cider be sure you’re aware of the variety out there to try.

Magners - Possibly the most well known brand of cider around the world. Although Magners is not very respected among many serious cider drinkers, who find it too sweet, everyone shoot still try it just for the reference. This brand is actually known as Bulmers in its native Ireland, which should not be confused with the English brand of the same name.

Woodchuck – A Vermont producer which has a delicious Granny Smith cider available. It’s got a nice tart flavor to it that balances out the sweeter qualities of the apples.

Harpoon – This Boston-based craft brewer has making great craft ale since the 1980′s. Recently they began producing a line of cider, and it’s definitely worth a try.

Original Sin – A producer based out of New York City which makes great cider that’s a little bit dryer and less sweet. It’s a great introduction to the more sophisticated European styles of cider

Ace – The first American craft cider producer, this is the company that started it all. If you can get your hands on any of the cider from California, be sure to give it a try.

What do you think about Cider? Let us know next time you have one by tweeting it and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Five Alternative Autumn Brews

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

autumn beer

We’ve already taken a look at a few of the most well known beers of the fall season, such as pumpkin ales and the Oktoberfest style. They’re plenty of lesser known styles of beer that go great with the autumn also. Today we’re going to take a look at few of them.

Schwartzbier – German for “black beer,” this style of dark lager is surprisingly light given its name. Dark grains are used for color, but not enough to impart any of the roasted qualities of a porter or stout. Instead this style gets its bitterness from German hops. Overall it makes for light but full-bodied taste that’s a bit creamy. Sam Adams’ Black Lager is probably the most well known version in America, but Köstritzer Schwarzbier and Saranac Black Forest are also worth checking out.

Biere de Garde – This obscure style is one of the few types of beer native to France. The name loosely translates to “beer for keeping” which is indicative of the style’s high alcohol strength, which was designed to help the beer age well over the hot summer months when it’s too hot for brewing. Unlike other high alcohol brews, biere de garde is usually well balanced in flavor and moderate in body, with light buttery elements to it. All of this makes Biere De Garde a great beer for big starchy meals like Thanksgiving. Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre’s probably the most notable produces of this style with their 3 Monts beer, but be sure to try Avant Garde from the Lost Abbey, Biere de Mars from Brewewy Ommegang (not to be confused with New Belgium’s Biere de Mars) and Oro De Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin Brewing.

Dobblebock – These heavy lagers were first brewed by fasting German monks to give them sustenance while abstaining from food. They are nutty and sweet in flavor with a medium body. Sam Adams Winter Lager is a great example of the style by an American craft brewer. Ayinger Celebrator, Paulaner Salvator and Spaten Optimator are three more traditional German versions worth a try.

Dunkelweizen – A dark (‘dunkel’ meaning ‘dark’ in German) version of the well known Hefeweizen style of German wheat beer, this style combines the banana and clove qualities of a hefe with dark grains to make a refreshing yet full bodied beer that some compare to banana bread. For a good example of this style try Weihenstephaner’s dunkelweizen. Franziskaner and Erdinger also make excellent traditional versions of the style.

Weizenbock – An even darker version of Dunkelweizen, which combines the dark roasted qualities of a porter or stout and matches them with the effervescent and fruity qualities of a hefeweizen. Try Aventinus from Schneider to taste a classic version of the style. Moonglow from Victory is a great American take on the style.

What’s your favorite autumn beer?  Let us know next time you have it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Oktoberfest

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

OktoberfestAlthough Oktoberfest in Munich ended last Sunday, there’s no reason why we can’t continue to enjoy all the great Oktoberfest beer that’s produced every year. Today we’re going to take a look at the history and characteristics of this wonderful German style of beer.

Oktoberfest first took place on October 10, 1810 as a 16 day celebration of the marriage between Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The main attraction for the 40,000 Bavarians at the  festival wasn’t the beer but rather a horse race. Over the next few years, the attention shifted away from the horse race and wedding anniversary and toward a celebration  of the fall harvest. When food and beer stands were introduced in 1818, this transition was complete, and the Oktoberfest as we know it was born. Since that time, Oktoberfest celebrations have spread to the rest of Germany, and today, Oktoberfest type celebrations are held throughout the world each fall.

Some brewers have a tendency to make whatever beer they want and call it “Oktoberfest,” but the real stuff has its roots in the strong traditions of German beer. Oktoberfest is usually brewed in the Marzen style, a beer brewed in the late spring for consumption over the hot summer months. A type of lager, Oktoberfest/Marzen typically has a copper  to red color with a lightly malty or sweet taste. The hops are generally mild and take a backseat to the malts. These balanced qualities make Oktoberfest/Marzen the perfect brew for the fall. It’s right between the lighter summer styles and the heavier winter styles.

Sam Adams’ take on Oktoberfest is probably the most well known American version, but be sure to try some German varieties for something slightly more authentic. Paulaner, Spaten and Ayinger are three great German breweries who each make a mean Oktoberfest that’s slightly sweeter than Sam Adams.

What’s your favorite Oktoberfest beer? Let us know next time you have it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

Style Profile: Irish Dry Stout

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

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There is probably no style of beer more closely associated with a single brewery more than Irish dry stouts and Guinness. Chances are that many Guinness drinkers can’t name more than six other brewers producing a beer in that style (but if you can name six let us know in the comments section and we’ll send you out some Beeriety swag). It’s true that Guinness has played a key role in establishing the style’s popularity and most recognizable qualities, it’s still a clearly defined style, independent of any particular brewer. With Guinness’s 250th birthday last week we thought we’d take a look today at the style it has made so famous.

The origins of dry stout, like all stouts, can directly by tied back to porters. Stouts initially emerged as heavier versions of the already heavy porter style, which is why they were first known as ‘stout porters.’ Over time the name was shortened to just stout, and a new style was born. Today there are of course many different types of stout, from milk stouts to even oyster stouts, but the most well known is undoubtedly Guinness’s dry stout.

Despite Guinness reputation as ‘liquid bread’ or ‘a meal in a class,’ dry stouts are actually the lightest type of stout in terms of alcohol and do not contain many more calories than your average light lager (take a look at our more detailed look at this issue here). Part of the reason for Guinness and other dry stouts light smoothness is their use of nitrogen  in addition to the usual CO2 to carbonate the beer. Because nitrogen is less soluble than CO2 and forms smaller bubbles the beer is able to carbonate with less gas, creating a less acidic flavor. Several years ago Guinness also debuted the ‘nitro can‘ which is a regular can of beer with a widget inside of it which releases nitrogen when the can’s opened to replicate the draught experience at home.

A can of Guinness draught cut open to reveal the 'nitro widget'

A can of Guinness draught cut open to reveal the internal 'nitro widget'

Although there are also coffee stouts, which use real coffee beans in the brew and give the style strong coffee flavors, dry stouts have also been noted as having subtle coffee flavors. Although with the creaminess of the nitrogen and the burnt qualities of black malt, dry stout might more closely resemble cappuccino than black coffee.

While Guinness will probably always remain the signature brand of dry stouts there are several other notable Irish producers of the style which are worth a try. Both Beamish and Murphy’s hail from the Southeastern Irish town of Cork and can be said to be a bit sweeter and and smoother than Guinness, give them a try next time you have a chance. There is also plenty of American craft brewers who do dry stouts.

What’s your favorite dry stout besides Guinness? Next time you have it let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.


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