The River...The River...The River's On Fire....

Friday, June 29, 2007

Recently-promoted beer afficionado Bob requested yet another "lawnmower" beer since here in Michigan we have had an unusually-long stretch of hot, sunny weather. For whatever my lawn suffers, my palate certainly won't.

Today's selection is an American Pale Ale. These are amazingly refreshing, hoppy beers with a clean taste. The higher carbonation and balanced hoppiness make these beers feel quite the beer version of what lemonade does to you.

Today's lovely selection is Great Lakes Brewing Company's Burning River Pale Ale.

This lovely beer pours a lovely amber color with a lovely (but not too fluffy) head which clings all over the glass like thick lace curtains.

Right up front, I get a great caramel maltiness. Added to it, in perfect harmony, is a huge floral hoppiness. Again, it smacks of refreshingness; the same psychological stuff goes on with an American Pale Ale that goes on with lemonade, iced tea or Arnold Palmers.

This is a crisp and medium bodied beer, and finishes dry which simply makes you want more. Unlike the smell, where I noted the malt first, this beer has an aggressive and sharp hop bitterness right up front, very floral, along with some notes of citrus. The bitterness lasts all the way to the finish. Given that much bitterness, there is a goodly amount of malt character (sweetness and slight graininess) to add a real depth to this brew. Underneath it all is that caramel and biscuit (biscuit from the yeast I assume) flavor that really rounds this beer out and keeps it from being an over-hopped travesty.

Overall, this is well-hopped enough for the hopheads to savor, but balanced enough for milder palates who don't like the taste of, say, "tin can" or "pine forest."

American Pale Ales are from British origin; they have Pale Ales, Mild Pale Ales, Bitters, and of course the vaunted IPA. The American version tends to be cleaner and hoppier than its Brit counterparts, including the IPA. The British pales, as a whole, are maltier, aromatic and balanced more than our style. Not for better or worse, just by way of overgeneralized comparison.

Many brewers of the APA style pride themselves on the use of local ingrediants, so you get some very interesting varioations on the overall theme, but they all remain relatively consistent. Some APAs will give you fruity esters and diacetyl, as it uses ale yeast, but this particular brew had little enough of those characters that I missed them all together.

Again, this is a great beer just made for hot, sunny days. And this one, definitely, is all over the local Beer Mecca and Ohio (since it's brewed there). Some of our out-of-state readers should be able to find this style, as GLBC has a pretty broad distribution.


Video of the Week #3

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Beer: "It's liquid bread. It's good for you..."


This Is Pilsner

Friday, June 22, 2007

Until about 1840, most beers (including those from what would become the Czech Republic were top fermented. In Bohemia specifically, consumers were dissatisfied with the quality of their local beer.

The citizens of Pilsen in Bohemia founded a brewery of their own; the Burgess' Brewery. They experimented with paler malts, cold storage and bottom-fermenting yeasts. And thus, Pilsner was born. Clearer, crisper, and with less yeast-induced characteristics than ales, the Pilsner took off like a rocket in Bohemia and quickly spread around the world.

Pilsners are lagers. Really, "lager" is German for "storage" but is now used to classify any bottom-fermented beer. Pilsner, in this case a Czech, or, Bohemian Pilsner (according to how the BJCP classifies beer) is one of many types of lagers and is the focus of today's delicious offering. Another lawnmower beer to be sure, but I like this particular beer on a hot summer evening on my back deck.

While Pilsner Urqell (meaning "Original Pilsner") is the most classic example of this type of delicious beer, today's offering is Sierra Nevada's Summerfest. Indeed we can brew a fine example of a classic beer.

As I poured into my lovely Pilsner glass, the beer quickly frothed to a creamy white head, which subsided to a thin but very sticky lacing down the glass. It has what could be described as an almost shimmering clarity to the beautiful golden-straw color.

I had to resist the urge to chug the beer so I could appropriately treat my nose to a lovely bouquet. Summerfest smelled clean, with some fresh cut hay and that lovely, complex Saaz hop that is characteristic of this style. In fact, I am sure the Saaz hop is at least partially responsible for the fresh hay scent, as well as the more common spiciness and floral scent. By spiciness, it's almost like a pepper, but not peppery. It is truly its own thing, but you know spicy when you smell it.

Like a Kölsch, this beer is simply clean (the main difference being that a Kölsch is an ale and we are speaking of a lager). Summerfest is crispand gives a truly refreshing sensation. It has a clean but dry, rich maltiness with a hint of lemon in that simply amazing Saaz spicy hop character that gives Summerfest a nice bitter bite. The beer finishes on a well-balanced hop and grain husk and is quite dry. The bitterness in the middle doesn't linger throughout the beer, but just strikes a great balance at the end.

This beer, while being medium-bodies and dry, is truly a refreshing libation. Sierra Nevada truly did the style justice in a well-executed nod to the Czech Pilsner.


A Friend of Beer is a Friend of Mine

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For a quick lesson in real ales, cask conditioning and beer enjoyment, check out this entry from Around the Keg "regular" George. Anyone who is a promoter of craft beer and homebrewing is a friend to us.


Jack Bauer for President

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Compliments of Daily Kos, our top Justice Officials, specifically Justice Scalia, appear to be using dramatic devices from Hollywood writers as justifications for constitutional interprettion. God help us.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.
Awesome. Recalling events that never actually happened in real life to illustrate not even theoretical constitutional tests, but purely hypothetical ones. What if space aliens threatened to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge? We clearly need to employ tactics like those we saw in Men in Black to track down and destroy the Space Alien Threat.

The article from Kos goes on to point out that Scalia had decried a trend towards citing international court opinions when examining our own constitution.

The summary at the of of Kos's article says it all:
Fictional super-heroes are perfectly reasonable to introduce into panel discussions about the legality of torture. International judicial opinions, on the other hand, are to be discarded as un-American.
I can't say I'm surprised. We have a President who insists on unilateral action and a political party unwilling to pay any heed to international affairs. So that we have a Jutice on the Supreme Court willing to use fictional, hypothetical accounts derived from a Hollywood plot device meant to entertain and thrill in lieu from opinions from actual events and interpretations from the world we actually live in doesn't surprise me too much. It depresses me, but doesn't surprise me.


New Religion?

I like Apple products, but some of their advertising is just plain creepy and some Mac owners adore the products with a religious zeal. This fake ad looks almost real.


Michigan Brewers in the News

Monday, June 18, 2007

Thursdays Detroit News had a nice little article on Michigan brewers. You can read it here.


Video of the Week #2

This is a pretty funny commercial that some may have already seen. It may have been a web only ad though.

It's beer related too, albeit Bud Light related, but funny nonetheless.



Father's Day Mayhem

All in all, Fathers Day was a success this year. We went down to Greenfield Village. Smitty Jr., my 2-year-old son, got to "ride da biiiiiiig train" and "ride da go-'round (carousel)," as well as see a wide variety of barnyard animals and imitate their sounds quite loudly. Father's Day, when you have a 2-year-old, is not so much about you as it is about you enjoying your kid. Riding the train was Serious Business, and Jr. had his Game Face on. So impressed was he that he got to see a train and ride the train that he couldn't trifle with overjoyed parents and grandparents. Oh no. He was not to be bothered as he took in the sights and sounds. He was Too Cool for big huge grins and instead tried hard to adopt a Serious But Nonchalant attitude about the whole thing. Of course, his act was ruined by the bell and whistle, which ellicited the grin his parents were looking for.

The carousel was also Big Fun. He didn't want to ride a carousel horse or tiger. No. Smitty Jr. insisted upon riding the carousel Chicken. He was at the height of pride, chest forward, back straight, Serious But Nonchalant in full-effect. But as soon as the ride started around and the chicken moved up and down, with the grandparents waving like lunatics every time he passed by, again The Game Face was shattered by an ear-to-ear grin.

With all the excitement, you'd have thought he would have crashed during the hour and fifteen minute ride home. But no. He told us again and again, in toddler detail, about the train, its noises, venting steam, the chicken and other assorted memories. If nothing else, that made for a wonderful Father's Day.

An added bonus: Mrs. Smitty cooked an amazing pork rollatini over a satueed endive and pancetta salad for dinner. Mmmmmm....

The only thing I didn't get to do was brew. I bought the ingredients, and will actually do the brewing this weekend. I am brewing a Belgian Dubbel, but am adding some Traverse City Cherry Juice to the brew for a Cherry Dubbel. Recipe and comments later when I actually do the brew.

How was your Father's Day? I bet it was nothing like this guy's.


Lawnmower Beer

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A close cousin to the German Hefe Weizens (like Hacker-Pschorr) is a lovely, refreshing, cloudy yellow-orange beer called an American Wheat Ale. These beers are light, refreshing, sweet and citrusy. Perfect for those hot days after mowing your lawn, or in my case, instead of mowing my lawn.

Today's lovely selection is
Blue Star Great American Wheat Beer. This is, to me at least, a fine example of an American Wheat Ale.

This beer pours a tantalizing pale straw color, cloudy as can be, with a frothy, dense pure white head that stuck around for the whole beer and left some great lacing down the glass. All those lovely wheat proteins helped with that.

The aroma is really light; I catch hints of mellow fruit and yeast and a noble-floral hop presence. What I don't get is the banana-clove aroma you get in the German wheat beers. We use a totally different yeast strain that lends a mild esters rather than the more traditional German wheat aromas. It's what makes it distinctly American.

I find this to be a very flavorful beer, though balanced still towards a light crispness. Of course, right up front is a crisp, sweet barley and wheat malt, light fruit (again, more like melon), and a light refreshing hop bitterness. There is a slight spiciness, not so much from the hops but from the wheat used in the beer. It fades away to a pleasant tart note, with some of that floral hop presence at the very end. It' got a medium-light body to it with pretty high carbonation.

This is, again, a very refreshing and crisp beer. It is absolutely built for drinking on your deck. Or in your hammock.

American wheat beers and German wheat beers both are top-fermenting, or, ales. But the particular strain of yeast used lends to some of the most noteworthy characteristics of each country' version: the classic clove-and-banana of the German beers and the mild fruit of the American style. The yeast used in the American strain allows for the hops to shine more than in its German cousin.


To Be a Connoisseur of the Finer Things...

If you didn't catch the CBS show "Creature Comforts" last night, you need to at least watch the following clip.

As I watched this clip last night, all I could think about was Smitty's beer reviews.

Please watch, but don't spit out your beer when you laugh.


MI Legislature Finally On Track

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Finally, after 6 months of screwing around, the Michigan Legislature is poised to introduce one of the most important pieces of legislation to be discussed yet this session.

Indeed, cosponsors are being requested on a measure to declare July as Michigan Craft Beer Month.

From the memo requesting cosponsorship:

Michigan has craft brewers in every region of the state and more than 70 craft brewers statewide. Michigan craft brewers are vested in the future, health, and welfare of their communities as employers providing a diverse array of quality local jobs, as contributors to local tax base, and as committed sponsors of a broad range of vital community institutions and philanthropic causes, including non-for-profit housing development associations, chambers of commerce, humane societies, athletic teams, and medical research. Michigan craft brewers also support Michigan agriculture by purchasing beet sugar, cherries, and apples grown in Michigan.
As the memo indicates, there are over 70 craft breweries in Michigan which gives all of us plenty of opportunity to ask that our own Representatives cosponsor this legislation.

So write your Rep and urge them to add their name to this bill! Don't know who your Rep is? Shame on you, and click this link. Send them an email directly from the link once you find them, and tell them to support a vital, entrepreneural industry in Michigan!


Success Redefined

Monday, June 11, 2007

Smitty Jr. turns 2 today.

Success is no longer making loads of money, driving awesome cars or whatever other idealized and commercialized thing it used to be. It's now keeping a kid 1) unbroken; 2) happy and laughing; and 3) healthy and engaged.

So for all that it's worth, Mrs. Smitty and I are thus far very successful. Our kid turns 2 and is everthing we could have wished for.

He loves the Pigeon series of books by Mo Willems, the "How Dinosaurs [do whatever, like go to bed, eat, get well]" books, swing sets and is obsessed with hockey. He says his alphabet, counts to 10, defies his parents and adores his grandparents. He is 32 pounds of mayhem and unconditional love.

Here's to the 2 years gone by, and the years and decades to come!


Dubbel Delicious

Friday, June 08, 2007

I received a request from a loayl reader for a review of something from the Jolly Pumpkin brewery in Dexter, Michigan. I will do that next week, I promise. I didn't have time to get to my Beer Mecca yesterday to pray at the huge building and get such a beer. I will make the journey and try the Jolly Pumpkin. I used to not like their beers so much, but from what I had at the Winter Beer Fest this year, I think they have made some improvements.

I digress.

Today I was really in the mood for a Dubbel. The reason is that I am formulating a recipe for a dubbel and I wanted a good example produced in the States, as I feel like I could not ever truly reproduce the real style from the monks in Belgium. It's sort of like a pastrami sandwich from anywhere but New York City: it's pastrami...sort of...but it just isn't the real deal.

I recently traded with a buddy of mine via FedEx some Michigan Brewing Company and Founders beers for some New Belgium beers from Colorado. One of the bottles he included was this lovely little Dubbel called Abbey Belgian Style Ale.
Color me impressed! I like Belgian beers, but they can sometimes be a little cloying and they are not always a "session" beer, meaning they're not necessarily meant to park it on a bar stool for 6 hours and do one after another. This beer, though, I found to be very drinkable and...maybe even "sessionable!"

Dubbels are bottle-conditioned beers, so I poured carefully to avoid too much yeast in my beer: hurts the overall taste and clarity a bit, and makes you fart really hard. It poured a lovely copper color with beautiful red highlights when held up to light. It had a large, dense head that produced thick, sticky lacing down the glass.

I got a lovely creamy phenolic not on the nose with a heavy dose of plums. I thought I smelled some bananas which while rare for the style is acceptable. More spiciness, alomst a licorice/anise and black pepper. I did smell a mildly solvent-like alcohol in the back, which is a little harsher than the style should allow. Usually with Dubbels it's a softer alcohol, but it's not like I'm gonna stop drinking it....

Ahhh! What a taste! A rich, complex malty sweetness is the real backbone of this beer. It's medium-bodied with a nice medium-high carbonation. Malty with dried fruit all over the place, like raisins. It does have a hard alcoholic note which is not as smooth as it should be, but it indeed emboldens the beer. I got some breadiness in the finish, which was also semi-dry with a fading bitterness that didn't last. Throughout the whole beer, and especially into the finish, is that strong malt backbone; not sweet like a bock, but just a complex malty flavor. It's got just the coolest malt-alcohol-phenol interaction to it that makes it a very thoughtful beer.

A note on phenols: usually, this is a band-aid or antisceptic smell that is indicative of improper sanitation. But it is a proper smell in a Belgian and imparts a clove- or vanilla-like smell and taste. In this beer, I oberved that it was more on the clove-like end of the scale.

This was very drinkable and surprisingly comparable to the real Trappist beers like Orval and Westmalle. I was extremely impressed and have a Hell of a model to follow for my own recipe.

A note on Dubbels from the Wikipedia entry: The first dubbel-style beer, from which the beer style derives its name, was the Westmalle Dubbel, which has been brewed in the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle since 1856. The name of the beer is indicative of its higher alcohol content in comparison with the Trappist monks’ usual lunchtime beer (more...or double...malt).

Kinda makes me want to be a monk, especially if this is what I get to drink for lunch.


The Lighter Side of the News

In the tradition of the Monday Link-O-Rama, I thought I would throw out some (hopefully) interesting stories I read this week. I don't have a lot of time, so I thought I'd use the same format as Smitty.

1. As a kid, one of my favorite shows was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Marlin Perkins was the host and I was always fascinated by the footage. Unlike many of the Disneyesque films of today, Wild Kingdom was brutally honest in is depictions of nature. If they showed a gazelle drinking from a watering hole, five minutes later a lion would probably be eating it. In that tradition, watch this Youtube video of an encounter between lions and a herd of buffalo.

2. Canada seems to have strange laws in regards to weapons. That, or they have a serious problem with Ninjas. I am sure that Canadians can sleep well knowing their government will protect them from dorks like these individuals.

3. I am a strong advocate for public schools. I received a good education from one. My wife and several friends teach at public schools. Unfortunately, when stories like this come out it is difficult to know what to say. Look carefully at the sign in the picture...'Let Are Kids Walk.' Maybe all those jokes about Texas are true...I mean our true.


The Happiest Bee on Earth

Thursday, June 07, 2007

One day an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman walked into a pub together. They each bought a pint of Guinness. Just as they were about to enjoy their creamy beverage, three flies landed in each of their pints, and were stuck in the thick head. The Englishman pushed his beer away in disgust. The Scotsman fished the fly out of his beer, and continued drinking it, as if nothing had happened. The Irishman, too, picked the fly out of his drink, held it out over the beer, and started yelling, "SPIT IT OUT, SPIT IT OUT YOU BASTARD!!!!"

Damn bee. But it didn't stop me from enjoying my Guinness.


Monday Link-O-Rama

Monday, June 04, 2007

New! With Misinformed Commentary and Bad Opinion!

So what it comes down to is that I am too overworked today top actually write a well-informed post. It's one of those days where I rely on you, The Reader, to fill-in the gaps with your thoughts.

1. Fuck this guy. A 16-count, 94-page indictment. Bad all the way around, and deserves swift punishment if he's found guilty. Which I am sure he is.

2. Watch this closely. Free Speech is at stake. A Marine, discharged honorably from active duty, is now being brought before the Marines to face the potential for a dishonorable disharge for wearing his uniform (from which all insignia were removed) during a protest. Disgusting waste of resources indeed, Cpl. His defense atty asked "what if his actions were in support of the Bush Administration?" What indeed.

3. Sure, it's from drug-addled reporters from a prominent music magazine...but good luck to Rudy. How do you think the author feels about him?

4. Maybe as long as these groups keep infighting we can get some other policy work done without talking about abortions all the fucking time.

Anything I missed?



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