Saturday, October 9, 2010

CanFest 2010 Winners

Today (technically yesterday) I attended the trophy ceremony for CanFest 2010, the Reno International Canned Beer Festival, presented by Reno's own Buckbean Brewing Company. The awards were given in advance of CanFest's public festival, which will be held tomorrow (technically today) at 6PM at the Grand Sierra Resort's Silver State Pavilion. Over 60 (!) canned beers will be available for unlimited tasting until 9:30. Tickets are $35 at the door, but only $30 if bought in at Buckbean. I will see you there. (I wish I had a site to link you to, so here's Buckbean's site instead.)

Of those 60+ beers, 15 were awarded trophies in five categories tonight. And the awards go to:

IPA Category

Pale/Amber Ale Category
Dark Ales Category
  • Gold: Gordon Imperial Red, Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO
  • Silver: Kilt Lifter Scottish Style Ale, Four Peaks Brewing, Tempe, AZ
  • Bronze: Ale, Tallgrass Brewing Co., Manhattan, KS
Other Ales Category
  • Gold: Sunbru Kölsch, Four Peaks Brewing, Tempe, AZ
  • Silver: Trout Slayer Ale, Big Sky Brewing Co., Missoula, MT
  • Bronze: Coconut Porter, Maui Brewing Co., Lahaina, Maui, HI
Lager Category
  • Gold: Viennese Lager, Bohemian Brewery, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Silver: Santa Fe Oktoberfest, Santa Fe Brewing Co., Santa Fe, NM
  • Bronze: Coors Banquet, Coors Brewing Co., Golden, CO (they didn't receive much of an applause)
Best In Show
  • Sunbru Kölsch, Four Peaks Brewing, Tempe, AZ
Congratulations to all the winners, especially Tallgrass, a newcomer this year who cleaned up with three trophies! Other big winners (i.e. multiple trophies) included Four Peaks from Arizona, Maui Brewing from Hawaii, and mainstay Oskar Blues from Colorado. I look forward to having all your beers tomorrow.


(Special thanks to the awesome folks at Buckbean.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reflections on the GABF

So, the party's over. At the Colorado Convention Center, the last bits of the 2010 Great American Beer Festival are being torn down and packed up. Janitorial crews are scrubbing the floors and walls. Brewery representatives are headed back to their respective cities, and college kids are returning to campus. And bloggers, such as yours truly, are reflecting upon the festival gone by.

This was my first GABF, and it won't be my last. My wife and I went for two nights this time around, but I could see myself going for all three. There might be a couple changes to the routine next time around, such as staying within stumbling distance of the convention center and not really trying to explore Denver by foot in between sessions. Also, I may have to sign up for the Brewers Association or the American Homebrewers Association to get into their Member's Only Saturday session or go on Thursday night instead to try and beet the college kids.

I had many good beers at the GABF, but only a few that I would call amazing beers, and all of them seemed to be from Colorado, a state I've neglected to cover in my reviews thus far. First of all, I fell in love with Wynkoop's Patty's Chile Beer, a 2006 GABF Bronze Medal winner in the Fruit and Vegetable beer category. It had a strong chili pepper aroma without the overt spiciness that I was expecting from a pepper-infused beer. It is one of my new favorites. Also one that I enjoyed was Yak & Yeti's Chai Milk Stout (auto-"corrected" to "Chair Milk Stout" in one of my tweets); I've never tried a beer infused with tea before, but they did a fantastic job. Finally, Rocky Mountain Brewing's Da' Yoopers tasted almost exactly like cherry pie filling. I've never had so many creative beers at one time. Great job all around, guys!

Also, I took the time (probably too much time) while there to talk to some of the brewmasters and brewery representatives that were there. Here is my list of awesome breweries from the festival, along with any awards they won last night (the full list of winners can be found here):

  • Alaskan Brewing Co. - Always great to talk to and support. Another Gold for the Smoked Porter's 2009 edition. Not a surprise there.
  • Trinity Beer Co. - Great IPA out of Rhode Island, which won the Bronze in the Imperial India Pale Ale category.
  • Horseheads Brewing, Inc. (NY) - Another good East Coast brewery, though I can't remember what I had. Blame it on being buzzed.
  • NOLA Brewing (LA) - Great Brown Ale, great people to talk to.
  • Full Sail Brewing (OR) - Dedicated staff, which is what you get when the employees own the place.
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. (OR) - Still one of my favorite breweries to visit and support. Bronzes in the Hefeweizen (for their famous Hefe) and the Ordinary or Special Bitter (for their Drop Top Amber Ale)
  • Redhook (WA/NH) - I toured the Woodinville, WA brewery many times in college. So many fond memories. Passionate about the beer. Shoulda tried the Copperhook, one of my college beers, if they had it.
  • Laurelwood Brewing Co. (OR) - Another Portland brewery that I'd probably be addicted to if I still lived there. Deranger took the Bronze in the Imperial Red Ale category.
  • 10 Barrel Brewing Co. (OR) - So there's apparently more to great Bend beers than just Deschutes. Sold out by the time I got there. Draft only. Last year's Bronze in the Out of Category awards for their S1NIST0R Black Ale.
  • Can't forget Deschutes (OR), also sold out when I got there, but I have a bottle of Abyss waiting for the holiday season. Gold for their Mirror Pond Pale Ale (Classic English-Style Pale Ale), Silver for their Gluten Free beer (Gluten Free) and their Wowzenbock (German-Style Wheat Ale), and Bronze for their Bachelor ESB (Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter).
  • Ninkasi Brewing (OR) - Another SOL, but I met co-founder Jamie Floyd. Awesome guy. Can't wait to try some of your beer.
  • Wynkoop Brewing Co. (CO) - The aforementioned Chile Beer is my new favorite beer, and their food ain't bad either.
  • Brooklyn Brewery (NY) - Finally! An east coast brewery doing something interesting that isn't Sam Adams! I took a zymological journey with them and their odd-but-tasty beers. Their Manhattan Project tasted like a Manhattan.
Congratulations one and all! I look forward to talking with you in the future.

For now, however, I must rest and start another week of work. I am continuing work on the redesign and the migration of this blog as you read, but I felt this entry couldn't wait. So until next time: Prost!

P.S. I have to give a big thumbs up to the Reno area's own Great Basin Brewing Co., who took home a Bronze in the Experimental Beer category -- Nevada's only medal!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Big Site News!

Dear loyal Beerocrat readers,

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't been active on this blog ever since my spring break last year. I figured I would let you in on what's been going on. In the months since I've published my last post, I've:

  1. Successfully switched jobs,
  2. Passed another semester of grad school,
  3. Went on an awesome vacation to Ireland and Scotland, and
  4. Purchased two tickets for the upcoming Great American Beer Festival in Denver
However, there is a fifth thing that is on my list of stuff getting done, one that isn't quite so apparent. I am going to be moving this blog to a new address:! Being the web developer that I am, I am writing the entire codebase and designing the site myself so that I can have complete control over how my site should look, act, and feel.

Right now, all going to does is take you back to this Blogspot blog, but that will change in the near future. I have been working behind-the-scenes to get things up and running and integrating it with social media, Web 2.0, and other overused tech buzzwords. For example, all of my established blog posts are now ported over (including all your comments) and my permanent RSS and Atom feeds have been created and tested. And, like everyone these days, I now have a Facebook page and Twitter feed which will be integrated into the site.

RSS Feeds: Atom and RSS 2.0
Facebook: Jonathan "Beerocrat"
Twitter: @thebeerocrat

Hopefully this will mark a positive step for the Beerocrat and its followers. I would like to thank everyone who has helped make this blog the way it is. I also would like to thank Blogger for the more than three years of blogging that I've done.

And, as always: Prost!

Monday, March 22, 2010


Before getting to the meat of this entry, I want to let you all know to expect a hiatus coming up this week. It was great being able to write some entries during my spring break, but The Beerocrat has to hit the books again this week, so maybe expect one more entry this week, then possibly irregular updates until mid-May.

Stumbling along Reno's Irish Row this St. Patrick's Day, I stopped in the King Ranch market to see if I could grab some more Guinness to continue the celebration at a friend's house. I figured they'd have some because everyone's a little bit Irish on St. Paddy's Day, right? Apparently not there; all they had were Latin-American beers and your typical domestic fare. In my semi-drunken state, I remember staring in awe at the number of different countries that were represented, which I guess makes sense, considering it serves a sizable Hispanic population nearby. For some reason, the Honduran beer SalvaVida caught my eye, so I grabbed a 6-pack.

The story of the Cervecería Hondureña is interesting. The Standard Fruit and Steamship Company started the Compañía Industrial Ceibeña in 1902 to produce electricity, water, ice, soft drink, and cold storage service in Honduras. In 1915, the government of the banana republic declared that the CIC could market and produce beer, and they did just that, with their first beer, SalvaVida (meaning "lifesaver") brewed the following year. In 1935, the CIC merged with the Cervecería Unión combined to form the Cervecería Hondureña. In 2001, the brewery became a part of the SABMiller family of breweries, which probably brought the beer to the states for the first time. Just last year, the brewery won the gold medal in the Australian International Beer Awards for the large brewery category, and its Imperial lager won the lager category (Cervecería Hondureña History and SalvaVida pages, the AIBA 2009 awards announcement)

Here come the stats:

BREWERY: Cervecería Hondureña, S.A. de C.V., San Pedro Sula, Honduras
U.S. IMPORTER: G.K. Skaggs, Inc., Irvine, CA
STYLE: Lager
CALORIES/SERVING: ~170 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 4.8%
MALTS: "Caramelized malt"

Everything except the bitterness, original gravity, hops, food pairings, and awards came from Cerveceria Hondureña's SalvaVida website. I will need to either e-mail the brewery or call/e-mail the U.S. importer for the rest, if they'll give it up.

Like most Latin American pilsners, SalvaVida poured a dull golden color into my glass. It had an almost non-existent bubbly white head that dissipated almost immediately. The beer's nose smelt very strongly of hops and metal, once again very characteristic of a pilsner from that part of the world. The taste of the beer was also hoppy and metallic with a malty undertone and a carbonated mouthfeel. At first, the taste was mostly clean and crisp with almost no after taste. However, as I drank more of the beer, it started to taste bitter, and the aftertaste built on itself.

With exception of the finish, this beer is largely interchangeable with most other Central American beers I've had, and I imagine if I had some burritas, Honduran tamales, or pastelitos de carne (similar to El Salvadoran papusas, I believe) it may have complemented it better. Still, if you're interested, pick one up at your local Hispanic store.

¡Salud y amor y tiempo para disfrutarlo!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout

Before today's entry, I would like to wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day. Please party responsibly.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I decided to have a special Guinness: their 250 Anniversary Stout, released last year to honor the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness signing a 9000-year lease on a disused brewery in Dublin at St. James' Gate in 1759. Apparently, he had an initial cost of £100 and an annual rent of £45, which makes me wonder if the deal is still on (I'd hope so). So, what better way to celebrate the start of the next 250 years than with the anniversary stout? This marks the third Guinness product I've reviewed, after the Extra Stout and the Jamaican version of the Foreign Extra Stout; I plan to review the Draught when I get a proper pint at the St. James' Gate brewery in May. (Diageo Beer Brands)

Here come the stats:

Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout
BREWERY: Guinness Ltd., Dublin, Ireland
U.S. IMPORTER: Diageo-Guinness USA, Inc., Norwalk, CT
STYLE: Stout
CALORIES/SERVING: 136.3 per 11.2 oz. bottle
ABV: 5%
MALTS: "Two types"
HOPS: "Triple hops"

I got the first brewed, calories, ABV, malts and hops from an MSNBC article on the beer. I'll probably fire off an e-mail to Guinness or Diageo for the rest, but I won't hold my breath.

The beer, like every other Guinness product I've had, pours black as night into the bottle. I messed up and poured this beer as I would've poured a Guinness Draught, but it turns out I wasn't supposed to; what little head that resulted was tan in color, a little whiter than the other Guinnesses. The aroma was similar to that of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout: a pleasing dark chocolate nose. The taste of the beer was certainly more carbonated and less creamy than the Draught, with a little more malty flavor. That maltiness lingered slightly in the aftertaste, but it wasn't overbearing.

Overall, a well-crafted beer from Guinness, but it doesn't evoke the same memories that the Draught does. This beer is only available for a limited time in the US, Australia, and Singapore (but not Ireland, curiously), and may already be sold out in some locations. (Booze Bros. in Reno, where I grabbed this one, still had 5 after I grabbed mine.)


Saturday, March 13, 2010


My wife and I took a mini-vacation to the Monterey Bay area for Valentine's Day. When we were in the Cannary Row area, I found a little Mediterranean market that had all sorts of funky Greek, Russian, and North African/Mediterranean foods and drinks. I was fascinated by their beer fridge; in addition to beers from the Baltic region and Greece, I found a beer from Lebanon, so naturally I had to buy it. That beer: Almaza, a pilsner.

The Brasserie Almaza S.A.L. was founded in the Baouchriye sector of Beirut in 1933 by Lebanese shareholders as the Brasserie Franco-Libano-Syrienne; the name stems from the fact that France administered Lebanon (then the Lebanese Republic) at that time, but still administered under the French Mandate of Syria. Lebanon saw many conflicts throughout its existence, and throughout the bombardments, Almaza still kept brewing its beer, changing its name to the Brasserie Almaza S.A.L. in the 1990's. (Almaza profile)

In 1995, Almaza beer became the only beer brewed in Lebanon (no longer true, ever since the 961 Brewery opened in Beirut in 2006). In 2002, the Heineken group purchased a significant portion of the brewery, which means I'm not sure if the beer I purchased was actually brewed in Lebanon. In addition to the Almaza pilsner, their flagship, they began brewing Rex strong ale (8% ABV) in 2004 and Almaza Pure Malt (6% ABV) in 2007; they originally began experimenting with additional styles in the 1990's. Since Lebanon has a large Muslim population, it also brews Laziza (a non-alcoholic malt beverage it acquired in 2003) and Almaza 0% Alcohol. The only thing I wasn't able to find was when their pilsner was first brewed (I assume 1933, when the brewery opened) and what "Almaza" means; "al-maza" is a type of Mediterranean tapas called mezze, and "almaza" means "why," so I'm not sure. (Almaza profile)

BREWERY: Brasserie Almaza S.A.L., Beirut, Lebanon
U.S. IMPORTER: Lebanese Arak Corporation, Glendale, CA
STYLE: Pilsner
FIRST BREWED: 1933 (as far as I can tell)
ABV: 4.1%
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Lebanese food, I imagine

The year comes from the Almaza website, and the (limited) rest comes from the bottle and the importer's website. I think some e-mails are in order.

When I poured the beer, a smell I can only describe as "pilsner" emitted from the brew. It was that hoppy metallic aroma that I've smelled in beers from Poland to Honduras. Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of that smell, but I fully support anyone who does. Also for full disclosure: I'm fairly certain the beer smelled funky; I'm not sure how long my bottle had been in the case, and the green bottle doesn't exactly help with UV radiation and hop oil spoilage. The beer had a light golden color with a white head that dissipated moderately quickly. Taste-wise, this beer tasted like a diluted version of Okocim, which was nice; no penny in the taste and a light carbonation. There also was a little skunk in the taste, which I chalk up to the bottle and its unknown age. The finish was a little bit of a sticky hoppy taste, with a slight touch of skunk.

I probably would've liked this beer more if it were fresher or newer. I'm sure those people who like pilsners will enjoy this one. Order one from your local Lebanese restaurant in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Australia, or the Persian Gulf.


Lhasa Beer

I'm always on the lookout for beers that come from exotic corners of the globe. So when I was reading my September 2009 issue of All About Beer magazine a few months ago, I noticed an ad for a new imported beer from Tibet, called Lhasa Beer. I immediately looked around Reno for the beer, mostly in the Asian markets and at Whole Foods, but I came up empty-handed. Flash-forward to Christmas, when I was visiting family members in Austin, Texas. My wife and I went to the main Whole Foods store there, and while I was looking around, I found that they sold this beer. I had to snag it and bring it back to Reno.

It is important to note that the Lhasa Beer that Americans receive in this country is different than the Lhasa Beer that Tibetans drink. Both are brewed by the Tibet Lhasa Brewery, founded in 1989 in Lhasa, Tibet, as a joint venture between two corporations; half is owned by the Danish Carlsberg Group and a Danish government development fund, and half is owned by a domestic corporation that is traded on the Shen Zhen stock exchange. However, the beer we get is specially designed for the US market, an all-malt Dortmunder lager with up to 30% Tibetan barley (with the remainder coming from Australia) and Saaz hops. The Lhasa Beer consumed in Tibet is a rice beer brewed with a lot of other adjuncts in it, and it is this beer, and others brewed by Tibet Lhasa (which, by the way, is the highest brewery in the world), that accounts for 70% of all beer consumed in Tibet. (Lhasa Beer, Ingredients, Brewery)

What's really cool about this beer is that its U.S. importer, Dzambuling Imports LLC, likes to make a point that 10% of their net profits are reinvested back into "direct philanthropic intervention in Tibet," calling it "good karma." While some people may think that this is just a marketing gimmick, I actually had the privilege of speaking to people in management at Dzambuling who assured me otherwise. They told me that the brewery employs 250 full-time workers, 3/4 of whom are Tibetan, and one worker's salary is sufficient to support one family. Each one also gets full benefits, health care, and a retirement program, and upper management at the brewery even gets housing. The brewery has working conditions that are on a par with a modern well-run American brewery (a photo of the bottling line is below). Finally, even though they aren't yet profitable, they are currently making contributions in support of educating children in Tibet. Good karma, indeed. (Brewery, Interview with Management)

Here come the stats:

Lhasa Beer
BREWERY: Tibet Lhasa Brewery Company Ltd., Lhasa, Tibet*
US IMPORTER: Dzambuling Imports LLC, El Cerrito, CA
STYLE: Dortmunder lager
ABV: 4.6%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 11.3° Plato (1045.62)
MALTS: Up to 30% Tibetan 2-row barley, 70% or more Australian 2-row barley
HOPS: Aroma: Saaz; Bittering: (some variety)
AWARDS: 2009 WBC Silver Medal (Dortmunder Lager)

*I count Tibet as its own country, even though China technically has administrative control over the region. I would count Taiwan similarly. It's not so much a political thing as it is an "exotic" thing.

Information on the first-brewed, malts and hops came from the Ingredients page, the ABV comes from the Beer page, and the award information comes from the Beverage Tasting Institute's review. The remainder of the information came from an interview with management at Dzambuling Imports LLC.

The first thing that hit me was this beer's strong pilsneresque aroma as it hit the glass. A deeper smell reveals a hoppy floral bouquet. The beer poured a yellow-golden color with a bright white head. The taste was carbonated and a bit hoppy for a 20 IBU beer. The finish was very crisp and light, leaving no trace of the hoppiness it originally had.

Lhasa Beer makes for a drinking experience that you can feel good about, both taste- and karma-wise. Pick one up wherever they distribute it, which will also include Reno and Las Vegas in the near future.

ཉེཔོནང (Nyepo nang)!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Harar Beer

Let's go back in time to January 2008. The economy was still somewhat good but about to burst, George W. Bush was still president, Michael Phelps was dreaming of eight Gold Medals in Beijing, and in Reno, a new Ethiopian restaurant, called Zagol, opened up. Me, my wife, and my parents-in-law decided to try it out. The food was interesting, the honey wine was fantastic, and the beer was Hakim Stout, what I called a "surprisingly good beer". Some of the commentors agreed, some didn't, but hey, we all have different tastes, and that's why I never bad-mouth a beer.

Now, we come back to the present. Barack Obama is president, Michael Jackson is dead, Alabama won the BCS National Championship game, and the family returned to Zagol for my father-in-law's birthday. Last time, I came with a 1.3 megapixel cameraphone, but this time, I came prepared with a 10 megapixel digital camera. I even knew that I wanted the light beer this time. Problem is, I had no idea what it was called, and neither did our waitress last time. I soon found out it was Harar Beer, a lager from the same brewery as Hakim Stout (thus the brewery info is the same). This beer is brewed in the pilsner style and runs at 4.25% ABV, less than the stout. Like the stout, the name of the beer is printed on the label in English as well as in Ethiopian, with the transliteration of the text being "Harar Bīrā," or (surprise!) Harar Beer.

Unfortunately, also like the stout, there's not a lot of information about the beer itself, so I've decided to include a little more brewery information. Of Ethiopia's four breweries, the Harar Brewery Share Co. is the only one who exports. It gets its brewery equipment from the Czech Republic, so it's no wonder that what is probably their flagship beer is in fact a pilsner. Their hops come from Germany, and the malt comes from the Assela Malt Factory in Assela (it used to be imported before the factory opened up). From what I've read, the brewery seems to be in good working condition, and it draws its water from the Genela Spring located on-property, as well as the Finkile deep well and the Alemaya Pump Station. (The Beverages Sector: The Private Sector)

Here come the stats:

Harar Beer
BREWERY: Harar Brewery Share Co., Harar, Ethiopia
US IMPORTER: NTS Enterprises, Oakland, CA
STYLE: Pilsner
ABV: 4.25%
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Ethiopian food

I got this extremely limited information from the bottle. I really need to e-mail the brewery with my questions. Who knows, maybe they'll answer.

This beer poured a golden color with a very nondescript white head that faded away almost instantaneously. The beer had a very malty aroma to it, but I thought it was pleasant. The taste was a little sweeter than I was used to for pilsners and was a nice surprise. I tasted malts, slight hops, carbonation, and a citrus taste reminiscent of a hefeweizen. The aftertaste was a combination of hops and slight metal, but faded pretty quickly. Matching the beer with Ethiopian food like Gored Gored and Ya Doro Wat made the aftertaste non-existant.

I liked this beer better than the Hakim Stout and better than most other pilsners I've had. Some complain that it's too sweet, but I think it's nice to not have a lager that tastes like I'm sucking a penny. Like Hakim Stout, you can find it at your favorite African restaurant or importer.

T'chen chen!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Famosa (Gallo)

This is a beer that recently was distributed to the Reno area, or at least to my favorite beer store, Booze Bros. I was in the mood for a Latin American lager, I saw the bottle, I saw the country of origin as another I can check off my list (Guatemala, by the way), I purchased.

Famosa (Spanish for "famous") is the export name for a beer Guatemalans call Gallo (Spanish for "Rooster"), explaining the black stylized rooster on the bottle. Why there's a stylized rooster on the bottle, I wasn't sure, so I had it explained to me by a brewery spokesperson. I originally thought that the rooster was in fact a Resplendent Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird, whose image adorns the flag, coat of arms, and currency (which is also named the Quetzal), but I was wrong. In 1896, one of the family members of the brewery owners (not mentioned, but I assume it's the Castillo family; read on) decided to put a rooster on the bottle of their "Lager-Bier", I imagine as a sort of trademark. Ten years later, people started asking for a beer "with the Rooster on the bottle," eventually being shortened to "The Rooster," and thus, the name El Gallo was born. (E-mail to Central Beers)

The brewery itself was established in 1881 by Mariano and Rafael Castillo Córdova as Castillo Hermanos, with German brewmasters Herr Stiller and William Spitz arriving in 1895. The beer now known as Gallo in Guatemala and Famosa elsewhere was first brewed in 1896, and it has won numerous awards since. According to the Famosa spokesperson, the brewery is now owned by the 4th and 5th generations of family members, and it is one of only two independent breweries in Latin America. (Gallo beer information; I did my best with the translation, but if anyone can assist, I would be grateful)

Here come the stats:

Famosa (Gallo)
BREWERY: Cervecería Centro Americana, S.A., Guatemala City, Guatemala
US IMPORTER: Central Beer Import and Export, Inc., Miami, FL, USA
STYLE: Lager
CALORIES/SERVING: 145 per 12 oz. bottle (135-155 on average)
BITTERNESS: 20 IBUs (18-22 on average)
ABV: 5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 11.5° Plato (1046.47)
MALTS: Malts from Denmark, Sweden, and Germany
HOPS: Hops from Yakima Valley, Washington
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Guatemalan food, but also "sea food, Italian pasta or steak" among other things
AWARDS: 25 Monde Selection awards since 1967, including 21 gold medals (which itself includes 10 straight golds), 1 Great Gold medal in 1992, and the Crystal Prestige Award; 1914 gold medal at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition

All information, except for the OG, malts, hops, and serving temp, came from Central Beer's Famosa website; the rest came from an e-mail to the importer, Central Beer Import and Export.

The beer itself poured a clear light golden color that bubbled up into a nice clean white head. The scent of the beer reminded me of many a pilsner and Latin American lager I have drank, which makes sense considering this is your basic Latin American lager. The beer itself tasted of carbonation and a slight hoppiness with just a hint of malt. The good news is that the aftertaste was not overly bitter or metallic, a problem that befalls many beers from this part of the world (my theory is that it has to do with the water). It was a light hoppy aftertaste that lingered for a little while.

Overall, not a bad beer, but I imagine that the entire experience would be greatly improved served alongside some tamales or chile rellenos or other Guatemalan food (and yes, apparently most Guatemalan food is also Mexican food). Certainly far from the worst Central American lager I've had. Your favorite Guatemalan restaurant or Latin American grocer probably has this beer, so pick one up.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Shiner 100 Commemorator

When I went to Texas for Christmas vacation, I of course wanted to check out the local beer flare. And in many parts of the state, when it's not one of the Big 3, the two big Texas beers are Lone Star (what one friend in San Antonio called "Texas' Budweiser") and Shiner. I only had one bottle of Lone Star, but I had a fair amount of Shiner, both the flagship Bock (4.4% ABV) and the winter seasonal Holiday Cheer (5.4% ABV). Both beers were very delicious and were highlights of my trip, along with a trip to the Blue Star Brewery and La Tuna for drinks.

It was when I got home that I discovered that Spoetzl, the brewery that makes Shiner, celebrated their 100th anniversary this last year, and they released a special beer to commemorate the event, called, er, 100 Commemorator, a Doppelbock-style lager that Spoetzl notes was used as "liquid bread" by monks fasting during Lent. The anniversary of the "little brewery" in Shiner was one of the many that occurred involving beer, including Guinness' 250th anniversary and Rogue's Sesquicentennial Ale to celebrate Oregon's 150th birthday. Since it was only available for the entirety of 2009, I figured that I should pick one up while I can find them in 2010.

After doing a little research, I discovered that this is the last of the anniversary beers that Spoetzl brewed. They started in 2006 with 97 Bohemian Black Lager, and followed up with 98 Bavarian-Style Amber in 2007 and 99 Munich-Style Helles Lager in 2008. Too bad I didn't try them when they came out, although I lucked out on the 97, which is back for good.

Spoetzl Brewery, so named after first brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl, was founded in 1909 as the Shiner Brewing Association by German and Czech immigrants in Shiner, Texas, first releasing Shiner Premium that same year. In 1913, they released Shiner Bock, and in 1914 the Association recruited Spoetzl to head up the brewing operation; he ended up buying the brewery the next year. They managed to survive Prohibition by brewing near-beer (and, rumor has it, Shiner Premium for local farmers), and Spoetzl survived until 1950, when he passed away; at that time, his daughter took over and renamed it the K. Spoetzl Brewery. I'm not entirely sure when Shiner expanded out of Texas for the first time, but I do know they expanded to North Texas officially in 1992, so it probably was pretty recent. (Spoetzl Brewery → History)

Here come the stats:

Shiner 100 Commemorator
BREWERY: Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner, TX, USA
STYLE: Doppelbock
ABV: 6.7%

The style, bitterness, and ABV come from Shiner's 100 Commemorator website (What's On Tap → 100 Commemorator). The rest will hopefully come as a response to an e-mail I'm going to send to the brewery.

The beer poured a mid-amber color and produced a light tannish foamy head. The aroma was fruity in nature and pleasant to my nose. The beer itself also tasted fruity but also very malty as well, proving the liquid bread reputation this style is known for. The taste also is slightly hoppy and also felt "heavy" and complex, if that makes sense. The aftertaste reminds me of a sweet dark bread, and it was pleasant and non-intrusive.

I snagged one from my usual haunt Booze Bros. in Reno, but if you want to grab one, you better do it soon!