Thursday, May 23, 2013

Krombacher Dark

Some people only like only light beer, others only dark beer. Both of these sets are wrong. I know you can't really be wrong when it is a personal opinion, but nonetheless, they are wrong. As I have said before, all type of beer have their place. Sometimes, you just might not expect what that place is. 

Krombacher Dark is a relatively easy to find dark German lager. It is very light in alcohol (at 4.3%) and surprisingly light in body. Usually when people (who don't like it) hear about dark beer they think of ultra heavy, roasted beers. Dark German lager might be a bit roasty and malty, but they are in no way heavy. They were effectively designed to have a little bit bigger and different of a flavor than the common German light lagers, yet still designed in the same way. This means that they were meant to be consumed in mass quantity. Why do you think they are often served in 1 L steins? It's because the German love their beer and they know they can drink that much. Krombacher has all of the refreshing body of a light lager, but with a nice roasted flavor. It has a nice caramel sweetness, which is one of the things that separates it from the light lagers, which can be a little grainy sometimes. Like with many German beers, I could go into great depth describing the subtle nature of the beers components, but that isn't really the spirit of those beers. They are best enjoyed with a nice meal, good friends, and a good time. 

Glassware: Mug, Stein, Pilsner Glass

Synonym Beer: Köstritzer Schwarzbier (the classic German Dark Lager)

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I am a pretty big fan of Sixpoint. I think that they produce great beer, have awesome designs, and are made up of some pretty great people. One thing that I love is that they are constantly producing new, interesting beers. 

Meet 3Beans, Sixpoint's (relatively) new canned beer. Like the Resin, it was released in the 12 ounce "Red Bull" cans. Unlike the Resin, it is a limited release (unless they decide to brew it again). As the name suggests, it is made with three different varieties of beans: cacao, coffee, and romano beans. 

This is one hefty beer. It is 10% ABV, which means that it was probably a good idea for them to only can in the 12 ouncers. It is a chocolate, coffee Baltic porter, so it has a good deal of body to it. This is a perfect beer for a cold night, dessert, or maybe if you need something to sustain you for a day. What it brings in body, it also brings in flavor. This was delicious. It certainly won't be for everyone, but if you like beers big and dark, then you will enjoy 3Beans immensely. I particularly loved the texture of the beer. I'm not sure if the addition of the beans had anything to do with it, but it seemed to be a little thicker and a little richer than most porters. Even though it was pretty expensive (~$15 for a 4 pack), it was also pretty damn worthwhile. At this point, you might be hard pressed to find it, but lucky for you, I still have some and I'm always willing to trade. 

Glassware: Can, Pint, Snifter

Synonym Beer: Hard to say taste-wise, but Founder's Porter is close in terms of quality. 

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Saranac High Peaks Wet Hop IPA

One of the main reasons that people criticize Saranac is that they don't have many big, bold beers. What most people don't realize is that Saranac wants it that way. Their goal is to make a good variety of session-able beers (generally <5% ABV), that allow you to drink a couple and not get drunk. That being said, they are also receptive to the desires of the market. Since many craft beer fans want strong, big beers, Saranac started their High Peaks Series. 

As I indicated, the High Peaks Series is a line of beers that Saranac makes to be a little bigger, and in some cases, more experimental. Some of the recent ones are: Lemon Ginger Saison, Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, Chocolate Orange Porter, and Wet Hop IPA. The Wet Hop IPA is the one I will be focusing on today. In case you are wondering, Wet Hop IPA indicates that the hops are not dried before they are used in the brewing process. The hops were used within 24 hours of being picked. Generally they are dried in kilns to preserve them better until the brewing process. Ideally, this gives a fresher hop flavor than dried hops can manage. In addition, the hops were all hand picked in New York State by friends of the brewery, which I'm sure made for a wonderful little event. 

While Saranac brewed this beer as a Double IPA, it is much lighter than most. It is only 7% ABV, so it is lighter in alcohol than many standard IPAs. Personally, I found the flavor of this beer to be fantastic. It was packed full of hops, but wasn't overwhelmingly bitter. The freshness was pretty apparent, though I'm not entirely sure if the same freshness couldn't be achieved by using dried hops. It is citrusy, but has a good maltiness in the body. It is everything that I like in an IPA, but on the lighter side.   

If you are one of those "big beer" kind of people, don't count Saranac out. Give the High Peaks Series a try. You might like it.

Glassware: Pint, Tulip

Synonym Beer: Sierra Nevada Harvest 

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Saison Du Buff and Collaborations

There is always an argument to be made about which is better, Collaboration or Competition. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wrote my SAT essay on the topic. Within the craft beer industry, there is an interesting balance between competition and collaboration. 

As a craft brewer, you obviously want to support other breweries, because the more people interested in craft beer, the bigger potential market you have. On the other hand, of that potential market, the more customers that you have, the better it is for your business. Basically, you want your competition to do well, but not better than you. One of the ways that brewers get people interested in craft beer is by collaborating with other well known brewers. I also imagine that they have some fun while they do it. 

Saison du Buff is a collaboration between Dogfish Head, Victory, and Stone. The beer was conceived together by the brewers from all three breweries. It is an American saison brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. As it sounds, it is an herby, hoppy, lemony saison. An interesting part about trying Saison du Buff is that you can find it in one of three bottles, depending on which brewery it was produced at. Each beer will taste a little different, and even though the Dogfish Head site says that the beer is 6.8% ABV, my bottle from Stone says 7.3%. It should also be noted that each of the bottles will cost different amount, depending on which brewery produced it (Dogfish is the most expensive). 

The beer itself is very good, but not my favorite version of a saison (as I am kind of a saison purist). It is light and refreshing, hiding the 7% ABV well. Don't let the herbs scare you, they are actually overwhelmed by the citrus flavor in the beer (at least in the version that I tried).  

Saison du Buff is a good beer, not great. It is probably a little overpriced (especially the DFH version), but I am glad that I tried it. 

Glassware: Saison, tulip

Synonym Beer: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (a less balanced version) 

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sünner Kölsch

The Kölsch is one of my favorite spring/summer styles. If you are unfamiliar with the style, Kölsch are the regional style of the the city of Köln (Cologne), Germany. They are very similar to lighter lagers in flavor, although they are warm fermented (using an ale yeast). They are characteristically light, with a noticeable hop bitterness, but still maintain a nice malty sweetness. 

There are three main Kölsch brands available in the US. I color code them based on their labels. Red and Blue are the two most common, so I was very happy when I found Sünner, the green one. They are all very similar, but with their own distinctive touches that are very hard to describe. It is a very clean, crisp beer, with an almost fruity sweetness that balances the beer out nicely. This is partially a result of the yeast used to ferment the beer. Since each brand uses their own yeast to ferment their particular brews, the esters produced will impart different flavors, even if they are subtle (as they are in Kölsch beers). I feel that, especially in the US, the Kölsch is an under appreciated style, mostly because people don't know much about it. I wish that would change. I also truthfully believe that there is a big step between true Kölsch and American remakes. Give them a shot, but do yourself a favor and grab a German one. You won't be disappointed. 

I am also a huge fan of the stange glass, the traditional glass for Kölsch.

Glassware: Stange, pint

Synonym Beer: Reissdorf Kölsch

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Face Plant IPA

Here is an example of an American IPA that I didn't enjoy, although not for the reason that you might think. Generally, I find American IPAs to be too big on hops, leaving the beer unbalanced and aggressive to drink. This isn't like that. 

I generally don't like beers that have silly names for no reason. My personal preference is when the name has some significance (based on ingredients, location, history, etc). This being said, I have tried beers with what I consider to be stupid names that I have actually really enjoyed. This beer actually has mellow hops, but I found the backbone to be very grainy. I felt like the hops and the malts did not blend together well. This wouldn't be a beer that I would send back, but then again, I never do that. Never. I found it strange that I could taste the alcohol in a beer that is only 6.2% ABV. I don't think that should happen. I can't say I'll be tempted to get another one of these anytime soon.

Glassware: Pint

Synonym Beer: Reminds me of a failed single hop IPA (although I don't believe it is single hop)

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Troy Night Out: Charles F. Lucas Confectionery and Wine Bar

Since I'm in grad school right now, home base for me is Troy, NY. Now, most people will be confused about where Troy is, but those do actually know where it is probably thought something along the lines of, "Living in Troy? That suuuuucks." I am going to do a few different posts about why Troy is actually a really fun place to live. Fortunately for me, most of these reasons have to do with the nightlife. 

One of my new favorite venues in Troy is the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery and Wine Bar. It is a nice little wine bar built on the site of the former Charles F. Lucas Confectionery, hence the name. There are a couple key reasons why I love this place. First and foremost is the people. Vic and Heather are the owners and they go out of their way to make you feel welcome, even when the place is packed.  I always love it when owners take the time to remember customer faces. The staff is very helpful and they are always glad to lend a suggestion (or find someone to do that) if you ask. 

Another reason why the Confectionery kicks ass is that they have a nice selection of cured meats and cheeses. They do perfect pairings with the charcuterie as well (Fig with a blue cheese, etc) that really add to the experience. This is something that you just don't find around it. It make the Confectionery a perfect place for a non-dinner date. You can go and get a couple glasses of wine, nibble on some food, grab some dessert (it is called the Confectionery for more than one reason). The atmosphere is a little higher class than some of the other places around. Personally I take this as an excuse to get dressed up a bit (I wore a bow tie to their opening night), but you are welcome in jeans as well as a suit. 

While I appreciate wine, I like beer a bit more, so I was very happy to see that they have a relatively small, yet well made beer list. My only complaint about it is that they don't have Saison Dupont, but it is hard to demand that of every bar that I go to (even though it would go well with the rest of the wine bar). They have a variety of styles, and for the most part don't have too many of one style, even having an interesting and uncommon German style, Gose. 

On any given weekend night, this place is absolutely swamped with people. Getting there early is better so you can grab a table or counter. I don't have any pictures of the decor that do it any justice, but trust me, the place is beautiful. The only real problem is that it seems that demand is exceeding the size and it can be difficult to get to the bar sometimes. Fortunately, they are expanding to another building nearby, which, when it is completed, should be able to accomodate everyone that wants to be there. If you are in Troy and you're looking to have a good evening, I would highly suggest the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery. Don't believe me, check it out yourself.

If you don't feel like going there for a drink (I'm not sure why you would, but) the Confectionery is open during the day as a coffee bar as well. Pretty damn good coffee too.

They have Saison Dupont! 

With a newly revamped beer list, the Confectionery is better than ever. By the sound of things, I will be spending many nights hanging out and sipping some fine, less common beers. The Grocery that Heather and Vic are going to open up (around the corner) will also carry a nice selection of great beer. I am overwhelmingly excited for this.