Fruit Beers are Not Just for Chicks

Monday, October 31, 2005

"Feh!" cry my friends who are only remotely (as in Pluto is remote from the sun) in touch with their feminine sides. "Fruit beers are for chicks and guys afraid of real beer!"

These are the same guys who classify Miller Genuine Draft as "great beer." It is beer, but I don't know about great.

I must admit, I am normally not a fan of fruit beers, especially given that many of them use a fruit concentrate, and quite a bit of it, instead of real fruit. It makes them sort of artificial. It tastes like drinking beer with a fruit roll-up in your mouth at the same time. I normally love Sam Adams and anything they put out, but I do believe their cherry wheat falls into this category.

So I'm at my favorite beer store (where they have, at last count, 645 beers in stock), and I see Dogfish Head Brewery's Aprihop beer. Anyway, this beer boasted that it was an IPA, brewed using real apricots. Everything else I've had from Dogfish Head has been really solid, so what the heck. As it turns out, this was no ordinary fruit beer.

It poured copper, slightly cloudy, with a slim head that dissipated and left some decent lacing. Smelled of bready yeast and you guessed it..apricots! It also had all of the scents you'd normally expect from an IPA; floral hops, sweetness, slight bready scent. Kind of like the Samuel Smith's India Ale I rated some time ago.

Again, I was worried that the fruity taste would be overpowering, but this was not at all the case. In fact, this tasted very much like a well-balanced IPA, great strong floral hops balanced by sweet malt, but with just a tiny hint of apricot. It's like drinking a beer after eating an apricot. The flavor isn't wahsed away by the beer. I wonder if some of the hoppiness was balanced not so much by malt, but a little by the apricots themselves? I thought it had a bit of an alcohol finish.

Good mouthfeel, nothing lingering, definitely not thin. Just solid.

Aprihop is very drinkable. I'll get this again, and take back everything bad I ever said about anyone who drank any kind of fruit beer. In this case, I was proven worng, and soooooo happy I was.

Read more... My Words

Friday, October 28, 2005

So I said that I wasn't gonna hold my breath. Well, guess I was wrong. Looks like I. "Scooter" Libby was just indicted today. Tough luck.

In retrospect, there is always a fall guy for this administration, and listening to the comments made and the finger-pointing and blame-shifting, Libby had "scapegoat" written all over him. Too bad they didn't get Rove. Looks like he escaped this one, but at least he's still under investigation.

And now we watch Congressional Republicans put still more gone between them and the WHite House.


Beer of the Week/Cheer of the Week

A favorite blog of mine, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Nachos, has a great little schtick every Friday where they go to their ipods, hit random, and give their impressions of the first 10 songs.

At Around the Keg, we (I) have decided to do the same this week, but of course, with beer. So this week's "beer of the week" is the first 10 beers I saw when I opened my beer fridge. With bottle opener in hand....

1) Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest. Hugely sweet, almost like maple syrup with beer in it. I would drink this beer every day AND have it on my pancakes. This is a perfect Oktoberfest, made by the people know...started it. 9/10

2) Bells' Twentieth Anniversary Ale. Sweet malt mixed with rose-scented hops. Pretty complex, ended with a kind of melon aftertaste. Good for show their 20th year. 8/10

3) Spaten Oktoberfestbier. This is nothing like Oktoberfest. It is re-packaged Heineken, with all the skunk of St. Pauli Girl. Drinkable, but not Oktoberfest, and only an average beer to begin with. 5/10

4) Theakston Old Peculiar. This is a great Old Ale. Molasses, raisins, a little chocolate. Well-balanced, not as sweet as Oktoberfests. 8/10

5) Brouwerij Huyghe Delerium Tremens. Holy moly. This is a Belgian strong pale ale...and strong it is. Grabbed my taste buds and said "you WILL like me, punk." And I did. This is a favorite. 9/10.

6) Michigan Brewing Company Sunset Amber Lager. This is a perfect lager. Lots of complex hops mixed with pilsener yeasts, but fermented at about 33 - 40 degrees instead of cellar-temp. Everything about this lager is exactly what you read about lagers in beer textbooks. Consistent beer from a consistent brewery. 9/10.

7) Blue Star Great American Wheat Beer. Nice, crisp wheat beer. Just that: nice. Not spectacular, certainly above-average...just nice. Got all the right trappings: floral scent, fruity/banana taste, cloudy. 7/10

8) Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weiss. I could drink this every day and not get tired of it. Hazy mahogany color, cloves and fruit om the scent. Bananas, smokiness, malt and chocolate on the taste. Gotta love the Germans for their beer (and their cars). But not so much for their art. 8/10

9) Bell's Brewery Two Hearted Ale. This is lovely. Floral and grapefruit smell. Caramel initially on the taste, followed up by the great grrapefruit taste. Gods, but this is good friggin' beer. Another consistent beer from a consistent brewery. 8/10.

10) Molson Canadian Lager. Dammit! Who left this in my fridge?!? After all these great beers, to end on such an average note is disappointing. Well..for a macro-brew, Molson does a fine job. Not too hoppy, in fact, almost no hops, mostly overshadowed by a simple beer flavor. Really, at the end of the day, I like this beer. I drink it at hockey games. I feel good drinking this beer. It's just not spectacular. Nice and fizzy, WAY better taste than Bud or Miller. At least Canadian macro-brews still brew beer that tastes like it.. 6/10.

My average this week is 7.7/10. I guess that makes me pretty happily hammered!


Miers Withdraws

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Does anyone feel kinda bad for Harriet?

They threw someone whom they knew was terribly unqualified at this process. I know what the Misadministration was thinking...she's a woman, she has no record that can be examined and Republicans will simply go along with what Fearless Leader tells them, right?


This Miers debacle is embarrassing for two people: Harriet herself, for being thrown into a circle she just ain't cut out for, and Bush himself, who has now proven he has no more clout on the Hill.

It is fun to watch Republicans in Congress put a whole lotta gone between them and Fearless Leader. With the rash of scandal, mistruths, misadministration, and insiders' claims of cabals, Congressional Rs are like the Roadrunner pouring on extra speed, leaving Wile E. Bush holding the lit stick of dynamite, running down the road in the desert all by himself.

More and more, they buck whatever comes out of the Whitehouse as if to say that they have their own minds and are unconnected to anything from the Administration. They even bucked Bush last night in a vote over greater restrictions over Fannie Mae! Bush said it didn't go far enough, so Congress said it went plenty far and voted for it. Even the little things are against them.

And I see why. With Republican Congressional candidates bailing-out of their races in swing districts, any ties to the Ship of Fools will only assure their defeat.

To bring it full circle, then, Harriet's withdrawal shows that Fearless Leader can no longer lead us. It shows that his word has no value, even amongst his friends. From now on, in order to get anything done, he's gonna have to prove it to the people who may actually lead us now: Congress.


The British Empire Lives Strong in India

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Quite simply, Samuel Smith's Pale Ale blew me away. It is brewed in the fine tradition of British-based India Pale Ales.

It's 9:00 on a brisk morning, on the campus of Michigan State. It's a tailgate. Besides my morning coffee, spiked with a bit of John Jameson and Son's finest, my palate was undisturbed. I reach into my cooler full of Molson Canadian (I'll review that one later) and pull out my bottle of this IPA. I had been looking forward to this moment, as IPAs generally present a very hoppy beer, full of taste.

A bit of history, being that I was on a college campus. Education is everything, afterall. The reason IPAs are so hoppy is because hops are a natural preservative. The only way beer would survive the long trip from Her Majesty's front door to the streets of Bangladesh was to imbue it with a ton of hops. The result is a beer along the lines of a slightly-more-bitter Extra Special Bitter (I'll review one of those later). Americans do a decent IPA, like Sierra Nevada, but ours are often over-hopped, because that's how the legend goes. The hops used are great, but sometimes too many. But in this fine example, the British show their handle on their own traditional beers is still as strong as ever. Long live the Queen!

I digress...I cracked open the bottle, and was immediately hit by a wonderful floral smell. I smelled plenty of hops, as I would with any IPA, but not so strong as Sierra Nevada. This woke my brain up out of its early-morning fog. Quivering with anticipation, my tastebuds ready for the shock of a mega-hoppy IPA, I nearly fell over at what I perceived to be an amazingly well-balanced IPA. Incredible. Sure, there were loads of's an IPA. That's what they do. But these hops I thought were extremely-well balanced by a nice sweet maltiness. In fact, the extra maltiness really took the sting off of what I would have normally expected. I exclaimed out loud that it was the best IPAs I'd had in a long time. Sorry Sierra Nevada...I found a new one. Mouthfeel was slightly dry, as it should be with IPA. Drinkability I think speaks for itself. I will buy this beer over and over again. 9/10.


Taste as Big as the World

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware has made an incredible stout called World Wide Stout. This is a very apt name.

I pass by this particular brewery's fares every time I go to my favorite beer store (shout out to Oades Big 10 in East Lansing), and have been tempted. What usually keeps me from buying, though, is that so many times, a craft brewery's stout is bitter, and so complex that it's like they threw all of their left-over ingredients into a pot. You know, like leftover night; a shred of beef brisket, 3-day-old mashed potatoes, withered salad, a chicken leg, some totino's pizza rolls and some very suspect green beans. There's no balance and no plan.

But what the Hell. Don't knock it till you try it. SO glad I did.

This was the best stout I have even had (next to Guinness - amen - of course). It was black black Splinter Cell black. Ninja black. Hiiiii-YA! It had a nice off-white, toasted almond-colored head that didn't last terribly long, but left nice lacing as I quaffed this masterpiece.

Enough about the look. It's like the part in a porno when the actress prances around in lingerie. Why?? Anyway...

What I smelled in this beer were characteristics normally attributed to wine: currants, coffee, spice. Good hop character. I raised the beer glass to my lips....the beer hit my tongue...

...and after a few minutes, I regained my sight. Surely, the bright flash I saw was God's smiling approval of this beer. Currants. Chocolate milk. Coffee. Roasted barley, like fresh out of an oven. There is a slight alcohol tinge, given that this beer is like 18% or something of that nature, but I found it to be a great compliment to the beer, and reminded me to savor it, not chug it like a glass of silky chocolate milk. This stout has balance. This stout has a plan.

The mouthfeel was like drinking silk. It has the consistency of drinking a glass of Ovaltine. I recommend this beer. I give it 9/10.


Beer of the Week/Cheer of the Week

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tomorrow, Michigan State plays Northwestern for homecoming. I will, as any true and loyal Sparty, be tailgating as early as possible. The only real way to enjoy Spartan Football is to be plowed like a Northern Michigan street in February.

Given that it's football season, what better thing to do than review a few tailgating classics.

It's 6:45 a.m. There's a crisp breeze, and since the sun isn't up yet, it's about 35 degrees. The oil in the turkey deep-fryer is heating up. There's a flask of Jameson in your back pocket. Time to crack that first beer. What'll it be?

This week's tailgate has Busch Beer, a far cry from what Adolphus Busch brewed back in the Old World before trying his craft here. Whip out the folding chair, put your feet up on your cooler and BUUUUUUUSSSSSSCCCCHHHHHH.....

I bring the can to my nose. I smell no hops, definitely malt and even an adjunct...rice maybe? And oh, I can smell the alcohol. My stomach churns, given that Arthur Guinness and I had a ton of craic doing some pre-tailgate celebrations that ended just 4 hours and 45 minutes ago. Hmm. But my liver screams to me that I'm a wimp for quittin' so early, so down the hatch! Busch is very watery, and highly-carbonated, almost to the point where the extreme amount of carbonation and alcohol burn the back of the throat. This has the typical "macrobrew" taste to it, meaning no evident hops, a slightly skunky malt and a generally bland, generic feel to it. I imagine this is to beer what the "tea" on board the Heart of Gold was to Arthur Dent. The normal characters that barley and hops are absent in what is truly carbonated water with alcohol added.

That was the real review. The tailgate review?

It's 6:45. It's 35 degrees. I just stopped drinking a few hours ago; long enough to have one of those still-awake-hangovers. I feel woozy. I want to puke. I slam my first. Thank God it has no taste, because taste is the last thing I need. Awesome. I chug the second, and half way through, my buddy wants to see me shotgun a beer. That never gets old for him, so I'm happy to oblige. I punch a hole in the bottom, crack the top and down it goes. It's now 6:50. I nip the Jameson in the flask in my back pocket, and chase it with another can of Busch. The carbonation burns, but produces some GREAT belches. I no longer want to puke. My lips are a little it from the beer, or just because it's cold? Friends show up. We deep-fry turkey. We eat. I am 12 cans into the morning, so pretty much everything is funny. Michigan State is a wet campus, so I can carry beers with me to the stadium. Good thing, because to remain buzzed enough to last the frist half so I can yell at the refs and enjoy the Spartans, I'll need 4 more.

The point is, while not a great beer at all, it is a beer centered around comaraderie, football and grilled food. This beer is great because it is meant for getting a buzz with your friends. No more, no less. Enjoy Busch.

And for the Cheer of the Week: Go State! 2 losses in a row, bad coaching and the worst kicker I believe in college history. I raise my 15th Busch in the air before stumbling into the stadium and proclaim Go SpState! Beathose fuggers! Hicc! Urrrrp.....ohshit....


A New Post, A New Look, A New Focus

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It's time for change. It was fun to equate political and social events with beer. But after a time, I began to realize that the truth itself became so absurd and twisted that to continue to give it parody became empty. The naked truth about politics today doesn't need parody. bIt stands alone as great comedy. The writers at The Daily Show don't even have to try. They splash what the president or one of his minions actually said, John Stewart gives a look, and everybody laughs.

Plus, to equate these "truths" with beer began to make beer unpleasant for me. Why would I use something I love so much as a metaphor for something that makes my blood boil? That just can't be.

There's lots of folks out there like these brilliantly funny bloggers, these hilarious lunatics and this talented writer who do a wonderful job of pointing out the absurd. It is a pleasure to read their blogs, which are updated several times a day in some cases.

It's time for something new for me. It is time to turn my anger into something positive...for me at any rate. From now on, Around the Keg, while still interspersed with rants and humor, will focus mostly on my quest to fulfill a dream:

To become a Certified Beer Judge.

It is my goal to take the appropriate tests and gain the correct knowledge to become a certified beer judge. With this prestigious designation, I will be able to attend beer festivals not just as an observer, but as one of the panel of judges.

There is a long road ahead of me. I need to meet brewers. I need to talk to homebrewers. I need to study and take the test provided by the beer judge certification program. Then, I need to keep up on the certification by participating as a judge in several beer festivals per year. As I gain experience, I start to get invited to more and more prestigious festivals, and the chain goes on.

Thus, the new look too. The picture on this template looks like a blury picture of hops. It's green, which, coincidentally, is the same color as hops. I have included links not only to great blogs on the net, but also breweries and beer information sites.

This is a quest to seek and understand better beer. This is my dream, as simple as it is. I will become a certified beer judge.


Beer of the Week/Cheer of the Week

Friday, October 07, 2005

It's that time again. It's Friday. It's time to drink beer.

My beer of the week this week is Delerium Tremens. This is a fine beer in the Belgian Wheat category.

First off, the bottle. It comes in an opaque, white-ish gray bottle with pink elephants in a ring around the bottle. Pink elephants. You'll see plenty of those if you drink enough of Delerium Tremens.

The name is cool. Delerium. Tremens. Crazy trembles, people. I get the crazy trembles just thinking about this beer.

In the right glass, it pours a nice 2cm head and smells strongly of cloves and bananas (B! a-n-a-n-a-s!). It has a strong spicy-floral taste, which tells the tale of a wonderful balance of hops with the right kind of yeast to create the floral and clove taste. Just delicious.

I drank this beer (well....several of these beers) at Dusty's Taproom in Okemos, MI. It is a regular on the beer list, and goes with many of the things on the menu. Drink this beer. I think you can buy it at Oades Big 10 on Kalamazoo St.



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