I blog primarily over at "geosciblog" (http://geosciblog.blogspot.com), I am doing this one for fun. It is inspired by 30+ years of beer can collecting and having tried more than 3,000 different American beers during that time. “. . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be.” — G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It's Pumpkin Season

Now that pumpkin harvests have taken place, it is time for enjoying pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and a few pumpkin-flavored ales. This is one of the benefits of the advent of craft brewing over the last 30 years, the availability of spiced lagers and ales in the fall and winter season.

Five pumpkin ales that are available here (in the Atlanta area) are:

I will check later for reviews of these and other possible available brands in the southeast.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Just in Time for Oktoberfest Season is Shiner "96"

In 2009, Spoetzl Brewing Company will be celebrating its centennial. In order to prepare, they are producing a specialty brew each year until then. This year's limited edition brew is Shiner 96, a Marzen (Oktoberfest) - style ale. The bottle label uses the "cotton ball" motif that was part of the Shiner character for decades.

Some more info on the Spoetzl Brewing Co. is presented in this post.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

All Things in Moderation

That includes the quantity of beverages but also the temperature. Just a few thoughts on learning to enjoy the variety of brews that the craft beer revolution have brought to us.

". . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be." G. K. Chesterton

This means taking the time to savor the brew, not just mindlessly slamming it down. And it means allowing the beer or ale to warm so as to allow the flavors and aromas to be released.

I don't recall the recommended temperatures, but I usually allow the bottle to sit unopened for maybe 10 - 15 minutes after removing it from the refrigerator. Mass-produced beers (some call them "factory beers") may not taste better at warmer temperatures, so keep that in mind.

Once opened, remember that the warmer beer/ale will foam more, so tilt the glass and pour carefully, so as to "build" about a one-inch to one and one half-inch head of foam. Then let the glass breathe a little.

With heavier ales like IPAs, Porters, Stouts, etc., the flavors may change as the brew warms. There are some that I don't like until they have warmed. On the other hand, some brews, like Expresso Stouts (brewed with coffee) may become too bitter when they warm.

Each individual will have their own likes and dislikes as to flavors and smells. There are a few beers that I have tried that tasted better than they smelled. I don't know all of the reasons for this.

If you have the chance, try to find a retailer that allows the sale of single bottles, so you can try different varieties without having to be disappointed with having to dispose of the remainder of a six-pack that you don't like. Or in some cases, the beer may have sat on a shelf for too long, so it may be stale. Maybe you could put together a "consortium" of friends to split the costs of six-packs to lessen the aggravation factor.

When shopping, bear in mind that some brewers put expiration dates on their bottles, some don't. If you see signs of dust on the "shoulders" of the bottles, that may be a sign that it has been there too long. Some brews show a thin layer of sediment when they are too old, but in others, the sediment is there naturally, as the remnants of yeast.

The American Beer Renaissance began in the mid-1970s because people got tired of the lack of choices among the national brands. The early attempts tasted like homebrews, but the efforts have paid off with some American brands that can stand "toe-to-toe" with European brands.

So instead of being taken in by mass-marketed foreign brands (in green bottles or clear bottles), why not help keep American brewery workers employed?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

It's Oktoberfest Time!

[I haven't posted here lately because of the seriousness of the hurricane damage to the Gulf Coast and the citizens that remained in the area, those that have returned, and those that have nothing to return to (and will have to make new lives elsewhere) will need ongoing help for months.]

Anyway, we find ourselves at the threshold of a major German calendar event, Oktoberfest. I will update with links to more historically accurate accounts, but I seem to remember that Oktoberfest was a post-harvest celebration and an enjoyment of the remaining warm weather before the coming cold winter months. That sounds logical anyway. A quick visit to www.beeradvocate.com reminded me that in Germany, brewing was suspended during the summer months because of the heat and increased susceptibility to bacterial infections of the fermenting beer. So Oktoberfest celebrated the return of beer.

If outdoor festivals with rich, hearty German foods, are not your forte, you can still hoist a glass of micro-brewed Oktoberfest or other Autumn brews and have your own private celebration of one of the important contributions of German immigrants - lager beers.

A description of Marzen and Oktoberfests (both amber lagers) from the Beer Advocate is as follows:

Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in colour with a medium to high alcohol content.

The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies’n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains only 4.5% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.

From the reviewers at the Beer Advocate, here is a link to the Top 50 rated Oktoberfests. I primarily enjoy American microbrews, so I haven't tried the foreign brands, perhaps I should seek out the highest rated German variety just for the sake of comparison.

Of the varieties (in bottles) that I have found here in the Atlanta area, these are in the Top 50:

5. Thomas Hooker Octoberfest (Troutbrook Brewing Co., Hartford, CT)
11. Brooklyn Oktoberfest
43. *Dominion Octoberfest (*actually not here yet, but some of their other products are starting to show up in the Atlanta market, maybe the draft version will make it here.)

The ratings were on a scale of 1 - 5 and the 50th was a 3.71

Other locally available (or maybe by the end of the month) are:

Samuel Adams Octoberfest (rating 3.53) - bottles
Augsburger Oktoberfest (rating 3.66) - bottles
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest (rating 3.56) - draft only in Atlanta at Summits Wayside Taverns
Abita Amber (rating 3.45) - actually a year-round offering of this style
*Avery The Kaiser (rating 3.87) - *other Avery products are showing up here in bottles, haven't seen The Kaiser yet.
Abita Fall Fest (rating 3.19) - mixed reviews, is usually sold in Holiday 12 pack variety boxes.
Savannah Fest Beer (rating 3.51) - actually on sale in Savannah at the Moon River Brewing Co. (oops - their website is gone, hope this isn't bad news.)
Bavarian Ecstacy Festbier (rating 3.9) - 5 Seasons Brewing Co. - Atlanta brewpub
Max Oktoberfest (rating 3.45) - Max Lager's Brewing Co. - Atlanta brewpub
Shiner 96 Marzen - Spoetzl Bwg. Co., Shiner, TX - new!
Redhook Autumn - Redhook Bwg. Co. - new!

Some of the other Atlanta brewpubs - Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, Park Tavern and Copper City in Athens and Cannon in Columbus - may have their own Oktoberfest beers.

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