Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Olympia: Good Luck

Olympia's slogan seems to be: "It's the Water."  Well, no shit, I was just wondering aloud to myself after my fourth can of this liquid terror what it is that could possibly give Olympia its old-timey flavor.  Rice?  Corn?  Elderly feet?  No, silly.  It's the water.  It says so right on the fracking can.

So it's been a while since I last suffered for my hobby, and the rather loudly marked 12 pack of Olympia reminded me of this tonight as I perused my grocer's beer cooler (generally a mistake).  The sense of pride emanating from the packaging reeled me in and next thing I know I'm handing over the $6.50 and change to take this box of fun home with me.  I really should get paid for this.

Open a can and take a whiff (don't bother pouring into a glass, seriously) and you'll be greeted with the scent of little other than corn and feet.  This is a fairly common first impression for this style so no surprises here.  Put one foot in front of the other until you find yourself taking that first sip, and if you can keep it down you'll learn that flavor-wise, not much is going on inside this can.  Sure there's the typical corn and alcohol taste that anyone who's pretended to enjoy a Pabst is familiar with, but otherwise your palate will be pretty lonely on this trip.  The only notable quality here is the smoothness.  Straight from the can it's kind of endearing in a chuggable, plug your nose and play kind of way, but I suspect pouring this one into a glass would yield a flat mess that would be somehow even more difficult to consume.  I think we can use our imaginations here to some effect and come up with what is probably a pretty accurate description of its color: it's likely a pale, almost clear gold, with fizzy bubbles dissolving into a frothy, almost purely white head.  Drinkability?  Well, that depends on your ability to consume things your body naturally rejects.

One thing I take considerable pleasure in noting is the horseshoe on the label with the words "GOOD LUCK" written on it.  Is that a challenge?  I think so.  At any rate, I can't think of a more appropriate phrase to issue anyone opening a can of Olympia.  In the world of ultra-cheap beer, this one can be avoided.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Put on your red shoes...

...and Dance the blues.

Too much of a good thing?  Nonsense.  Indulge me, please.  Lately it seems like every month I've got some new Boulevard Smokestack bottle to track down and frankly, I love it.  With more on the way I find myself absolutely giddy over what's to come.  BBQ?  Yes!  Imperial Stout?  Oh God yes.  This week we land on the new Harvest Dance Wheat Wine Style Ale.  Admittedly I'm very new to the style and...well, if I'm being totally honest I have to divulge at this point that I've never, ever even heard of a wheat wine style ale, let alone tried one.  However, being a rather HUGE  fan of American barley wines I naturally found myself very excited over the news that Boulevard was releasing a wheat-based version.  My excitement at least doubled when I happened to walk into Gomer's this afternoon to find case on top of case of it.

After spending the necessary (and totally arbitrary) one and a half hours inside my refrigerator I decided the bottle was plenty cool and it was time to journey into completely undiscovered country, which I believe any beer geek will agree after several years in the hobby is a fantastic and increasingly rare experience.  I'm delirious by the time I remove the cork...honestly, I've turned to using a corkscrew.  I tilt the bottle and...oh my...this has to be the thickest, frothiest head I think I've seen yet.  As the picture will contend, there was about as much foam as there was beer in the glass, following an exceedingly gentle pour.  After some reading I'm finding that this is a common experience with this particular brew and certainly made for one beautiful beer.

I probably go on a little too much about the appearance of beers but I really must say the color of this one is superb.  A striking reddish amber capped by a slowly receding off-white head makes for one truly enticing beer.  The head recedes to a thin crown that lasts throughout the session with medium lacing leftover.  The smell is very tart, with lots of fruit and yeast along with a very strong citrus smell that kind of reminds me of the Two Jokers from earlier this year.  Mouthfeel is thin and bubbly, with a smoothness that is possibly due to the strong head retention and certainly adds to the drinkability of the beer.  The taste is somewhat tart, with a lot of sour fruit and a citrus hop flavor accompanied by an ever-present alcoholic dryness...this one makes no secret of its 9.1% abv.  The whole thing is followed up with a very strong oak finish, which came on a bit heavy but certainly added a lot to the character of the brew.

This is a very drinkable beer, despite the high alcohol content.  While I'm generally not one to suggest splitting a bottle, I admit there are some brews that might justify such an otherwise heinous action.  This is not one of them, however, although I can't imagine finding myself wanting more after the bottle runs dry.  Maybe it was just my palette but I found this beer oddly refreshing, and with a name change wouldn't have thought it out of place as a mid-summer release, but perhaps that's due my lack of experience with the style.  All said and done, I really enjoyed the Harvest Dance, and hope to see it again this time next year.  Meanwhile I plan on finding myself another bottle to lay down for a few months to see if that strong oak finish is rounded out just a bit.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's The Great Pumking

Few things can divide a crowd quite the way pumpkin ales can.  Purists will contend that pumpkin ales should be strictly pumpkin-flavored, while others seem to prefer a nice autumnal, pumpkin spice flavor.  Personally, I'm more of a "pumpkin pie" kind of guy, which may be why I enjoyed Southern Tier's Pumking as much as I did.  This one is essentially pumpkin pie in a bottle...with whipped cream on top.

First things first: cool label.  Unfortunately the beer itself doesn't go above and beyond to bring home any style points but simply looking at it won't get me drunk so I'll let it slide.  The color was a nice clear burnt orange but the small bubbly head receded to nothing within minutes with minimal lacing.  The smell, however, was heavenly: sweet and earthy with the spices weighing in significantly heavier than the pumpkin itself.  Mouthfeel was thin and smooth with medium carbonation, fairly typical for the style from my experience.  The taste was candy-sweet and creamy with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg complimenting a very mild pumpkin flavor.  The whole thing is wrapped up by a notable hop presence and mildly astringent finish thanks to the 9% abv.  I personally found it difficult to sip, instead having to fight temptation to go in for the kill and chug the remainder of the glass each time I tasted it.  This is an extremely drinkable brew...

To conclude, if you find yourself on the conservative, squashy pumpkin pulp side of the Great Pumpkin Ale Debate, you'll likely find very little to enjoy here.  To my palette the pumpkin seemed like an afterthought to a variety of seasonal spices.  On the other hand, if you've ever wanted to catch a buzz off a pumpkin pie, this is the beer for you.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sloppy Seconds - The Seeyoulator Doppelbock

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Like a kid on Christmas or the guy next in line at an AVN-sanctioned gangbang, I found myself becoming increasingly impatient. The St. Louis folks said the new Smokestack doppelbock was on their shelves and had been for a while, yet it was no where to be found in Boulevard's own city. To further stomp out any sense of hometown pride, no one on the other side of the counters had even heard of this so-called 'Seeyoulator', let alone had even the slightest idea of when we could expect it on their shelves. Sigh. How does such an industry still live in such dark times? Why is it that I can pinpoint to the hour when the next Michael Bay flick is to be released on DVD, yet the street date of something even as profound as the next of the beloved and much talked about Smokestack release from Boulevard is treated with such obscurity as to make the MiB's proud?

Admittedly, at this point I'd about lost interest. Being something of an old-school (at heart) advocate of fine (and not so fine) brews, I have long preferred to actually drive to my favorite getting spots to secure whatever was on my mind at the time. Being the case, many a mile has been put on my car and many a disappointed return trip from the old Gomer's has been had lately looking for this reclusive release. I assume most can imagine my surprise then, to find dozens of bottles of the Seeyoulator in a chance encounter with a Berbiglia's this evening. Wasting no time, the once elusive bottle was immediately refrigerated to await my judgement.

Doppelbock. Although it's not a style I'm extremely familiar with, I have indeed done my research. One thing I went into this encounter with was the expectation of a loaf of bread in a bottle, and I'm somewhat happy to report that this ended up being fairly accurate. The first thing I noticed upon pouring was the astonishing presentation. Boulevard has once again outdone themselves in this category. The color was an enthralling shade of the deepest crimson with perhaps the most lovely off-white head I've seen yet, the density of which is unmatched in my, admittedly shallow, experience. Ironically, no camera was present at the time of pouring so you'll just have to see it for yourself, or fancy on over to the KC Beer Blog for some choice shots from the wonderful new Smokestack goblet. Jealous indeed.

Honestly, I didn't get much by way of smell on this one: bread and wood seemed to rule the day here. Whether it's the style or the limitations of my own nasal cavity is something I'll leave up to the winds, but I suspect most imbibers will spend less time sniffing and more time sipping. The mouthfeel isn't so thick that you'll likely feel the need to chew, but it is a bit more substantial than the usual fare around the self-professed Bad Beer Blog. Taste is a tad more difficult to describe. The Seeyoulator kind of forces my hand here, leaving me to declare that this is undoubtedly the single most complex beer I've ever tasted. There, I said it and I won't take it back. Good or bad, it really depends on what you like, but I think few will argue that there is an awful lot to experience in this bottle. Up front is an incredibly sweet, malty bread flavor, which I found quite endearing, surprising given my tendency toward the distinctly west coast American "hop bomb". The next thing you'll likely notice is a rather wowing amount of cedar woodiness that will carry you on to a very mild hoppy, astringent alcohol finish. To sum it up, if you've ever wondered what a cedar chip sandwich would taste like, this is your meal in a bottle. In terms of complexity, I'm slightly disappointed in my palate for missing a few of the notes that other reviews seemed to have picked up on, but that's something that I'm certain future bottles will help with.

That being said, this is actually one of the only Boulevevard Smokestack bottles that I do fully intend to purchase again. So far I've found each entry into the Smokestack series* to be a delightful representative of it's style, yet for one reason or another, one bottle of each is all that I've purchased. Overall, I find this a difficult beer to rate based on the fact that there is an awful lot going on inside this bottle, and depending on your palate and taste, you may or may not exactly care for it. I found the cedar flavor particularly overwhelming, however it was also an endearing characteristic that personifies the same individuality that I've come to love and expect from Boulevard's Smokestack Series. One thing is for certain: love it or hate it, the Seeyoulator doppelbock is unique, and in the copycat beer world of Imperial this and Double that, tasteful uniqueness is a quality that I can certainly stand behind. Now, let's see to it that our faithful KC natives get the next one first, eh guys?

* Bourbon Barrel Quad and Saison Brett are excluded from this conversation, as a bottle of each rest peacefully in my basement waiting for just the right time to open, i.e. when more is released, nudge nudge.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What the French, Toast?

Anybody that's not in the St. Louis area able to find Boulevard's new Seeyoulator Dopplebock on shelves yet? Several posts on BeerAdvocate suggest that it's been available in STL for some time. Every place I go here in KC either hasn't heard of it, or has no idea when it's coming. They all have one thing in common, however: shock that our fine relatives across the state are enjoying this brew before us locals. Thoughts? Can it be?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The King Cobra

I’m sitting on the porch of our condo watching the sun set over the ocean outside Bandon, OR, and for once I’m actually enjoying my latest bad beer adventure. I don’t know if it’s the cool temperature and picturesque beach, or the day’s activities wearing me down, or maybe just the knowledge of what’s in the minifridge waiting for me to get to it, but this can of King Cobra is alright.

Pouring the clear, golden contents of the 24oz tall boy can into a lovely snifter, one of the few clean glasses remaining at my disposal, I soon relate the irony of drinking a $1.09 can of malt liquor from such a vessel to the absolutely stunning beach in front of me that lies on the outskirts of a run-down old Oregon town. The lovely pink and gray sunset over the hazy blue Pacific has me feeling reflective. Or maybe it’s the booze.

Smell is, as usual, about what you’d expect from this type of thing. Not much happening here but what there is won’t put you off drinking it, assuming you’ve made it this far. I have to recommend pouring this one, since it actually seems to benefit from a little breathing room. Taste is somewhat mild, but that’s not unexpected considering the fairly weak 6% ABV. Generally the alcohol is all you taste in something of this quality but not so here. What you will taste is sweet corn and little else, followed by a very mild, sweet finish, with a pleasant level of carbonation.

The full can done and gone, it’s time to say goodnight and go inside. While I can’t see myself actively seeking this one out closer to home, I can say with some certainty that this is the absolute easiest bad beer review I’ve done yet. Whether it’s the beer, the sunset, or just the adventure of trying something new, this one’s ok.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Greetings from the sand

You wake up early one morning and head to the airport. You try to check in to your flight only to realize it's been cancelled. You kill 3 hours at terminal C because you've already parked your car in long-term and refuse to go through that again. Eventually you arrive at your connecting flight only to learn that the connecting plane has been grounded due to 'technical issues'. Your gate changes. Your gate changes again. Hours later you board the plane and wait on the tarmac for what seems like an eternity only to find out that a seat back is broken and maintenance has been dispatched. Finally your plane is in the air and in 3 hours you land in Portland, where you'll wait 30 minutes for a rental car.

Sensing a trend? The journey was a trying one indeed, but well worth it on every level. Across 1800 miles I finally arrived at my destination: Beer Capital USA. My stay in Portland was a short one, but I'm following it with a seafool and beer-filled week on the Oregon coast so I have no complaints. I've packed a few bottles to keep me company throughout the week, and one or two to bring home. Thoughts on the Stone IPA in my hand will be posted shortly.