Posts Tagged ‘beyond the seasonals’

Five Alternative Spring Brews

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Spring is officially here and that means it’s time for a fresh crop of seasonal beers. Many breweries release their springtime beers this time of year to coincide with the new season. There are plenty of other delicious brews out there that go great with this time of year, so here’s a look at five alternative spring beers:

Marzen – German for the month of March, this style is closely related to the Oktoberfest style, as traditionally March was when beers were brewed for Oktoberfest. Today some brewers will make separate batches to be enjoyed in the springtime. These beers are usually very mild with a dark copper color. They have a slightly sweet, delicate taste and very little hops. Overall it’s a light and crisp style that’s as great in the fall as it is now. Try Spaten’s version to get the classic example of the style. Ayinger also makes a very traditional version. Victory has a nice bold American craft take on it as does Abita.

Maibock - This style is perhaps the lightest of the bock family of heavy German lagers. It’s got a light body with slightly sweet flavors and a moderate hop profile. Dead Guy Ale is probably the most well known version of this style, although it tends to be a bit sweeter and stronger than most. Smuttynose does an interesting version that’s worth a try. Flying Dog’s Heller Hound Bock is also pretty refreshing.

Witt – As we discussed on Thursday, there’s been a lot of attention in this style recently thanks to the popularity of Blue Moon (which many don’t realize is made by Coors.) These beers offer a wonderfully fruity and crisp wheat flavor that’s a great introduction to folks new to the world of craft beer. There are some great craft wits out there, including the Ommegang Witte, Allagash White and Blanche De Chambly from Unibroue.

Saison – Also known as farmhouse ale, this style was once originally brewed to be consumed during the hot summer months while doing farm work. Whether you’re a farmer or not, it’s still a great style to enjoy any time of the year. These beers are light and extremely crisp with a spice that comes from herbs and spices  used in the beer. The sharp but sweet flavors are one of my favorite spring beers. Dupont is the classic version of this Belgian style. Their Foret version is also pretty tasty. Hennepin from Ommegang is a fantastic American craft version, as is Smuttynose’s Farmhouse Ale.

Cream Ale – Traditionally a poorly regarded style, there have been a number of brewers in recent years who have redeemed this one’s standing. They are extremely creamy while still being relatively light and pleasant. Sam Adams does a great version, as does Anderson Valley with their Summer Solstice. If you can get your hands on Lagunitas Sirius ale, you’ll be sure to enjoy it.

This is just a few of the great brews that go well with this time of year. What’s your favorite beer this time of year? Next time you try it, let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the #mybeer hashtag

Five Alternative Winter Beers

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

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.

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.

Beyond the Seasonals: Alternative Summer Beers

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Summer is a great time for beer. When the temperature is hot, nothing’s better than a pint of your favorite beer to cool off. Although plenty of breweries do terrific summer seasonals that go great with the hottest months of the year, there are many traditional brews that also go great with summer, and today we’re going to take a look at them.

1. Hefeweizen - This is a wheat beer of German origin, whose name yeast (hefe) white (weiss, referring to the color of the wheat when brewed) is apt considering the strong presence of both elements in this classic beer. Unlike most bottle-conditioned beer, this is one you actually want to pour the yeast into the bottle as it’s a major part of the style’s flavor. It’s great for the summer months because of its light but full-bodied taste and fruity flavor. There are numerous versions of this style but a personal favorite is Paulaner.

2. Wit – This Belgian style is the other major wheat beer alongside Hefeweizen.  Wit beer tends to be lighter and more lemony than Hefeweizen, but it can still be quite refreshing. Coors’ Blue Moon beer has given this style a good bit of attention in the last few years, but try a Hoegaarden for a version more true to form.

3. Saison - A style which originates in southern Belgium, it was originally brewed in the winter months to be consumed in the summer after intense farm work, which is why it’s sometimes known as “farm house ale.” This beer is light but sweet and frequently spicy, thanks to the pepper which is frequently added to it. Saison Dupont is probably the signature brewery for this style, but Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY also makes a pretty mean version known as Hennepin.

4. Steam Beer/California Common - This is the only traditional beer style of American origin. It came to be when California immigrants from Germany and Czechoslovakia attempted to make the lager styles they knew from the old country. Unfortunately the warmer temperatures and lack of refrigeration options In 19th century California meant the beer turned into something new and exciting, a hybrid style that combined the lightness of a lager with the flavor of an ale,  a true American original. Anchor Steam, America’s first craft brewery, has since copyrighted the term “steam beer” so other brewers must refer to their versions as California Common.

5. Belgian Golden Ale - Sometimes referred to as Belgian pale ales because of their relatively hoppy flavor, at least when compared to the other beers on this list, this style is crisp and refreshing.  It’s strong carbonation will also leave a huge head of foam in your glass, regardless of how carefully you pour it.  Duvel is the most famous version of this style, but there are plenty of wonderful American versions, such as Brooklyn’s Local No.1 and North Coast’s Pranqster.

This is of course just the tip of the iceberg when comes to amazing brews for the summer time. There are countless other styles that go great with this time of year. Got any suggestions? Tweet what you’re drinking and add the #mybeer hashtag to it to let us know what your favorite summer brew is and what you think about it.

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