Saturday, June 30, 2007

MacTarnahan's Amber Ale

The fourth and final beer that I brought back from the Northwest is a MacTarnahan's Amber Ale. The MacTarnahan's Brewing Company was started in 1986 as the Portland Brewing Company with one mission: "Crafting delicious beers for a small (but growing) number of discerning beer lovers." Starting out as a 1,000 barrel per year brewpub in Portland, Oregon, MacTarnahan's started producing award winning beers such as Portland Ale, Original Oregon Honey Beer, and what has been dubbed Portland's Original Amber Ale, MacTarnahan's Amber Ale. Recently, MacTarnahan's was acquired by Pyramid Breweries of Seattle, expanding its mini-empire into three states. I picked up an Amber Ale in the Made in Oregon store at Portland International Airport before heading home. Yes, it's still made in Oregon, so it counts.

Here are the stats:

MacTarnahan's Amber Ale
BREWERY: MacTarnahan's Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA (a division of Pyramid Brewing Co., Seattle, WA, USA)
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13° Plato (1052.85)
HOPS: Cascade
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Grilled and smoked meats, full-flavored fish, fish and chips
AWARDS: A ton...

I got some of this information from the Mac's Amber Ale page, and I hope to get the rest of it from an e-mail that I plan to send tonight.

This beer poured very well and had a nice aroma that was a mixture of grains and citrus. The beer itself was a rich clear amber color with an off-white head that looked very soft and puffy, retaining its shape long after being poured. At first taste, it did not have any trace of over-hoppiness (compare that to the Hale's Red Menace) and went down smoothly. It definitely gained a hoppy texture, but it was comparably muted throughout. The finish left a nice grainy aftertaste, but after a little while it started to go stale, the only downside to an otherwise pleasant beer.

Overall, this beer is a good one to go with a nice meal, especially the fish and chips at the Mac's brewpub (or so I'm told).


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hair of the Dog Ruth

First off, I would like to dedicate this post to all the dogs in my life: Tess (my dog, pictured left), Spanky (my fiancée's dog, pictured right), Truckee (my friend's dog, not pictured), and Hercules (my friend's other dog, not pictured). They are the four-legged loves of my life.

Now, on with the beer.

The third beer I purchased in the Northwest was from a brewery called Hair of the Dog (hence the dog dedications above), a small brewery founded by Alan Sprints in November 1993 out of Portland. Most of their beers have are named for people or at least seem like they do. I personally have had two different Hair of the Dogs before, the flagship Adam (named for an extinct German beer style, Adambier), and Fred (named for beer writer/historian Fred Eckhardt, the inspiration for brewing the Adam and first person to purchase it). Both of those beers have an impressive 10% ABV, and utilize "bottle-conditioning," or when new yeast and beer is added to finished beer to make it age like a fine wine. To help determine how much an Adam or Fred has aged, Hair of the Dog has put "vintage numbers" on their bottles denoting the batch of the brew. They still have their first vintage of each (Adams from 1994, Freds from 1997) that the brewers taste every so often to see what new flavors have developed. Hair of the Dog is still a small outfit, essentially a one-man operation that brews 5,000 cases of all their beers (not 5,000 per beer) each year.

The Ruth, a 4.5% All-American Ale, is named after founder/brewmaster Alan Sprints' grandmother, Ruth, a fitting tribute if I do say so myself. When I spoke with Alan, he said that he expected it to be one of his most popular beers, but it actually is the least popular. However, it has maintained a loyal following of people who do not enjoy the stronger Adam and Fred. The bottle says to "Have one on Granny," so I did just that.

Here are the stats:

Hair of the Dog Ruth
BREWERY: Hair of the Dog Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
FIRST BREWED: 2000-2001
CALORIES/SERVING: ~180 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: ~30 IBUs (varies year to year)
ABV: 4.5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 12° Plato (1048.58)
HOPS: Crystal
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, sushi, even apple pie
AWARDS: Never entered in judging contests

The ABV came from the bottle's label, and the rest was answered by a phone call to the brewery on June 29th, 2007 at 12:45 PM PDT. Thank you very much Alan!

This beer, while light on alcohol, definitely packs a great color and scent; the color was a rich cloudy amber color and its scent was wheaty with a hint of citrus, a pleasant surprise. The head was nice with a slight off-white color, and it did not dissipate. It's taste was very smooth and inviting, with only the slightest bite that I actually liked. The finish was equally smooth, with a milky aftertaste that didn't last long enough to go sour. I thought that the alcohol was starting to settle at the bottom towards the end, something I don't like in beers, but it wasn't enough to deter me from truly enjoying it.

Overall, this beer is a keeper, perfect for kicking back this Independence Day.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hale's Red Menace Big Amber Ale

The next beer that I purchased while up in the Pacific Northwest was a Hale's Red Menace Big Amber Ale in a Tacoma grocery store. The bottle stood out for me because I'm interested in Cold War history, especially between the Soviet Union and the United States. I also liked it because it had a statue of Lenin from the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle on the bottle, which brings back some memories of wandering around Fremont with my fraternity (Free...mon-t! Free...mon-t!), where this beer was brewed. I had to have it.

Hale's Ales Brewery wasn't always situated in the quirky artistic Freemont district, but was founded in 1983 by Mike Hale in Colville, Washington State, a city about 70 miles north of Spokane (for those of you not into geography, it's over on the other side of the state). On July 4th, they released their flagship, Hale's Pale American Ale, the Northwest's first microbrewed pale ale in the Northwest, which quickly became a regional bestseller. Two years later, they released Hale's Irish Ale & Wee Heavy, which introduced the concept of seasonal beers. In 1986, a second brewery in Kirkland, near Seattle, was opened to keep up with demand. In 1992, the Colville brewery moved to Spokane, and in 1995 the Kirkland brewery moved to its current Fremont location, increasing production from 20 barrel brew length to 50 barrel brew length. The Fremont location boasts a brewpub and is now the only location that actually brews Hale's beers. It is unknown (by me) if they still own their Spokane location.

Here are the stats:

Hale's Red Menace Big Amber Ale
BREWERY: Hale's Ales Brewery, Seattle, WA, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: Never been tested
ABV: 5.4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13.735° Plato (1056)
MALTS: Caramel, Carastan, Black
HOPS: Centennial
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Shredded pork sandwiches, rich meats
AWARDS: 2004 Spring Beer Festival (Portland, OR) Winner, 2005 North American Beer Awards Silver Medal, 2006 North American Beer Awards Gold Medal, 2007 North American Beer Awards Bronze Medal

I got some information from Hale's Red Menace page, and the rest from a phone call to the brewery placed on June 29th, 2007 at 3:30pm PDT. Thank you very much Jay!

The beer had a nice aroma from the first pour, and its color was a reddish-amber that was unusually cloudy for a filtered beer. The head was nice and white, and it lingered for a long time. When I first tasted the beer, I was blown away by its intense hoppiness. It was incredibly strong, much stronger than other ambers I've tried before. It had a big bite that I personally did not enjoy, but it finished clean with a slight grainy-nutty undertone. Subsequent bites became more enjoyable, but still had that bite. It also did not leave a strong aftertaste.

Now, just because I don't enjoy a beer does not mean that it's a bad beer. Everyone is different, and this beer was just too hoppy for my personal taste. I always try a beer once, and I never bad-mouth a beer, but I still may not enjoy it. However, if you enjoy big hoppy flavor crammed into an amber beer, then this beer is perfect. Pick one up the next time you're in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, or Alaska. It certainly is a Red Menace.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Laurelwood Mother Lode Golden Ale

Well, I'm back from my trip to the Northwest. I hung out at the wedding, had an awesome time at a wedding party my parents threw for me, and caught up with old friends. I also brought back a few choice Northwest brews from a couple of stores around the area. I bought a MacTarnahan's Amber Ale, a Hale's Ales Red Menace Amber Ale, a Laurelwood Mother Lode Golden Ale, and a Hair of the Dog "Ruth" All-American Ale. Basically I picked up a bunch of ales, all of which I plan to enjoy. Here's the line-up.

I decided to start off the Northwest Beer review with the first one I got: the Laurelwood Mother Lode Golden Ale. The brewery/brewpub was started in 2001 by Mike and Cathy DeKalb in the Hollywood District of Portland on 40th and Sandy, brewing the Mother Lode as part of their initial line-up. In 2002, two of their beers, the Free Range Red and the Tree Hugger Porter, were certified organic by Oregon Tilth, "a nonprofit research and education membership organization dedicated to biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture," the first Oregon beers to be given this distinction. Their second brewpub opened on NW Kearney St. in Portland, and their new brewery is located at 51st and Sandy in Portland with a brewpub on the way. The original location is going to become the Laurelwood Pizza Co., because as you know, pizza goes very well with beer.

Here are the stats:

Laurelwood Mother Lode Golden Ale
BREWERY: Laurelwood Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: Never been tested
ABV: 5.1%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 12° Plato (1048.58)
MALTS: 2-Row, Acidulated
HOPS: Northern Brewer, Cascade
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Bisque, green salad, grilled fish
AWARDS: 2002 World Beer Cup Gold Medal (Golden-Blonde Ale category), 2003 GABF Bronze Medal (Golden or Blonde Ale category), 2004 GABF Silver Medal (Golden or Blonde Ale category)

I procured this information from Laurelwood's Mother Lode page, Laurelwood's Awards page, and responses to a couple of e-mails I sent them. Thanks Chad and Desi!

The beer poured very nicely, giving a nice white head that lingered. The ale had a nice light wheaty scent that wasn't too strong. I have to admit that I felt that the first taste was a little too bitter for my palette, but after the initial, the beer was very enjoyable, with the flavor building upon itself after every sip. It finished clean with a slight wheaty aftertaste that you know I love. Unlike some beers, this one kept its flavor after sitting for awhile, making it a good beer to nurse on or sip occasionally.

Overall, I enjoyed its flavor after that first sip. It's nothing against the beer; I really just don't like bitterness, which is why I favor the lighter beers and don't drink a lot of IPAs. If you enjoy beers with a little bit of bite to them, this is your beer. If you travel through Portland, you can pick one up at Portland International Airport, where I grabbed this one; Laurelwood has a café in Concourses A and E. It'll make your trip that much more enjoyable.


Update: I got some information from their website and blog (the latter being more up-to-date).

Friday, June 22, 2007


Unfortunately I'm going to have to break my Cal Ripken-like streak of straight days posting about beer (three, a new record!) because I'm going out-of-town and I don't have a computer. I'm flying up to Portland in mid-afternoon, borrowing one of my parents' cars, and driving up to Tacoma, Washington, to meet up with my fiancée Becky. We're attending a wedding up there, and while there is beer to be had, there is not a computer to be had. So, no updates for the majority of this weekend.

However, I will be touring a beer store or two in Tacoma and Portland (I really want to get over to Belmont Station in PDX) and may return to Reno with some choice brews that you may be interested in. Since Portland is one of the greatest beer cities in the world (hey, it has more breweries than Cologne, Germany), the beers there are always excellent.

Speaking of Portland, I fired off an e-mail a few days ago to the Widmer Brothers Brewery when I was writing up my Hefeweizen review. I asked them if they could tell me something interesting about their tasty yeast-wheat concoction, and they did not disappoint. Today, Rob Widmer responded with this revelation: they reluctantly brewed their flagship beer. Here's the scoop:

One interesting thing is that we were reluctantly persuaded to offer Widmer Hefe by Carl Simpson and Kate Bullard of the Dublin Pub. Carl wanted to have as many beers on tap at the DP which was a little unusual in the mid-80's. We were selling him our Altbier and Widmer Weizenbier and were not able to brew any more different styles due to limited tank space. However, we knew that in Germany Weizen beers were offered filtered, like Widmer Weizen but also unfiltered, as hefeweizen. We were reluctant to sell Carl unfiltered weizen because of the appearance but Carl took the time to explain to people that it was supposed to be cloudy. From the Dublin Pub word spread and today Widmer Hefe is recognized as the original American Hefeweizen and the standard for the style. Sometimes good things just happen!

And I do have to agree with that last sentence.

I do want to thank the brothers Widmer again for taking the time to respond to little old me. Anyone that does that is awesome in my book.

Have a good weekend everybody. Prost!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blue Moon Honey Moon Summer Ale

To celebrate the first day of Summer, I figured that I review a seasonal summer beer. One of the favorite beers in the Reno area is Blue Moon Belgian White, a brew of the Molson Coors Brewing Company. When I was last in Booze Brothers, I noticed that Molson Coors released a summer ale in the Blue Moon line, called Honey Moon Summer Ale. I picked up a bottle and drank it tonight.

The interesting thing about this beer is that I could not find much information on it. Since I didn't pick up a 6-pack, I don't know nutritional information. No ABV information is on the bottle. There's not even a mention of the Honey Moon Summer Ale on the Coors website. However, there is an 800 number on the side, so I'll call that later. I do know that this is the first release year was in 2006, where it picked up the Gold at the Great American Beer Festival in that year's Specialty Honey Lager or Ale category.

Here are the stats:

Blue Moon Honey Moon Summer Ale
BREWERY: Blue Moon Brewing Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
CALORIES/SERVING: 157 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.2%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY (inferred): 11.69° Plato (1047.28)
SPECIFIC GRAVITY (given): 2.285° Plato (1008.90)
MALTS: Unknown
HOPS: Domestic from Golden, CO and imported from the United Kingdom (that's all I could get; the rest is proprietary)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Presumably, summer foods
AWARDS: 2006 GABF Gold Medal Award Winner (Specialty Honey Lager or Ale category)

This information came from a phone call I placed to Coors at 7:30 AM PDT on June 22nd, and a phone call I received from Coors at 8:15 AM PDT that same day. Thank you Coors representative (I think her name is Christie) for the information on this beer — it is greatly appreciated.

Now, the brewery situation is interesting, because on the label, it says that it was brewed at Blue Moon Brewing Company in Toronto, but Molson Coors has dual headquarters in Golden, CO and Montreal. I go by what the label says, technically making this a Canadian beer. That is what I will label it as.

This beer, once opened, had a nice aroma, not too strong and overpowering. It had a nice head that quickly dissipated. Contrary to Blue Moon custom, I did not drink it with an orange slice, as I wanted to gauge the taste of the beer on its own. The beer had a nice light taste that had a hint of sweetness (probably coming from the honey and orange peel that it was brewed with). There was no lingering aftertaste, which was nice, although I tend to like the grainy aftertaste on beers.

One thing I did not like about this beer was the tendency for the alcohol to settle at the bottom. I drank this beer over the course of about 10-15 minutes, due to a phone call from my parents. In between that time, some of the alcohol fell to the bottom, which I definitely could taste and did not like; I felt it clashed with the beer's flavor and sure turned me off to the finish. Then again, this scenario probably isn't likely for most beer drinkers, so feel free to ignore this.

The bottom line is: Blue Moon Honey Moon is a nice refreshing summer ale with a touch of sweet. Just don't leave it out for too long.


UPDATE: I called the phone number (1-800-253-6666 if you're interested), and it bounced me around to different menus, only giving me (limited) information on Belgian White. It told me to call again between 8 AM and 5 PM Mountain Daylight Time, which I did. The results are above.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cerveza Quilmes

On a recent trip to Sacramento, I wandered into one of the best beer stores in Northern California: BevMo!, a liquor, beer, and wine store. I tell you this: When I saw their beer selection, I was a kid in a candy store. I've never been giddy about much in my life, but I was giddy about their beer selection. I couldn't decide on one single beer, so I found a "beers of the world" 10-pack, featuring South American, European, and American beers. One of those beers is an Argentinian selection, Quilmes.

Originally brewed by the Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes in the Quilmes district of Buenos Aires, Argentina (hence the name) in 1890, Quilmes Cerveza is a light lager that has become the pride of the South American nation. Quilmes is the beer in Argentina, sponsoring the national soccer team and even using the country's colors on its label. The brewery itself was opened in 1888 by German Otto Bemberg. The brewery produces other Quilmes brands, including Quilmes Bock and Quilmes Stout.

Here are the stats:

BREWERY: InBev/Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
ABV: 4.9%
HOPS: Bittering: ; Aroma:

Not much is known about this beer, but I will fire off an e-mail (in bad Spanish) to try and fill in some of those blanks. The ones that are there are from Beers of the World, the Quilmes website (, in Spanish), or the Quilmes label.

The instant I poured the beer, I noted a faint aroma that reminded me of regular Coors. The beer was a nice golden color with a massive white foam. I felt that it had a nice light taste, not harsh at all, and had a nice aftertaste that tasted like grains. Becky, my fiancée, also tasted the beer and described it as a light summery beer with no aftertaste, perfect for relaxing. I am inclined to agree. Who knows, I may even stock my next barbecue with coolers full of Quilmes.

Okay, probably not.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Widmer Hefeweizen

For my inaugural beer review, I decided to sample one of my favorite beers: the Widmer Hefeweizen from the Widmer Brothers brewery in Portland, Oregon. According to their website, the brothers Widmer (Kurt and Rob are their names) introduced hefeweizen to the United States in 1986 as their flagship beer, and they have never looked back. Hefeweizen is a type of wheat beer in which the yeast isn't filtered out (in fact, hefeweizen is German for "yeast wheat"), and this lack of filtration also leaves in wheat proteins, making the beer cloudy. And boy, is this beer cloudy.

Here are the stats:

Widmer Hefeweizen
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: 156 per 12 oz. bottle
BITTERNESS: 30 IBUs (International Bitterness Units)
ABV: 4.9%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 11.75° Plato (1047.52)
MALTS: Pale, Munich, Wheat, Caramel 40L
HOPS: Bittering: Alchemy; Aroma: Willamette, Cascade
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "A wide range of foods from salads to seafood to robust ethnic foods."
AWARDS: 1998 GABF Gold Medal Award Winner, 2004 Gold Medal Beer Cup, 2006 GABF Gold Medal Award Winner

It's pretty safe to say that I really enjoyed this beer. It started off with a bitter opening, but finished clean with a nice wheat aftertaste. It's been 40 minutes since I finished this beer and I don't have that skunky beer breath, so it must be clean.

Now, I've heard that it's pretty much a law in Germany to never order a hefeweizen with a lemon. But with American style hefeweizens like Widmer's, it's not only preferred with a lemon, it's also encouraged. Widmer even has its own website,, where people demonstrate the extreme ways that people put the lemon in their Widmer. Some of the more creative ways include rockets and slingshots (the aim of those people is amazing).

In short, Widmer is a very delicious, yet slightly harsh wheat beer that is crisp and enjoyable. It is available country-wide, except in six states (Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah, otherwise known as the "party-pooper states"). Prost!

UPDATE: I got the beer's stats from Widmer's Hefeweizen website,, and the FAQ,

Welcome to the Beerocrat

Hello, and welcome to the Beerocrat. I, Jonathan, will be using this space to document my love of beer wherever it takes me.

You see, it was around my senior year of college that I fell in love with beer. Before that, I was in love with hard alcohol, mostly vodka and rum. After a bad experience or two, I lost the taste for hard A, and turned to beer. At first I didn't like the taste so much, but slowly I became hooked, beginning to appreciate the craft of the brew. It helped that the types of beer I liked were the craft brews: Red Hook, Widmer, and Henry Weinhards to name a few. Being curious, it was only natural that I wanted to learn all that I could about beer: the different types, the methods, the variety of ingredients, and so on.

That's where this blog comes in. When I try a new beer or an old favorite, I will document it here. I will find as much information as I can and post it here, along with my thoughts and observations. I will keep you up-to-date on the latest beer news, new releases and seasonal selections by some of my favorite breweries, the newest international brews released in the states, and my travels around the country and the world and the beers I encounter.

Now I warn you, I don't exactly have the palette (yet) for detecting all the ingredients and tastes by initial smell or finish or whatever. I may not ever be able to describe to you that a beer has a creamy aroma of nuts and cranberry, or has an oaky-nuttiness for the finish, or whatever. But I do know this: I love beer, and I enjoy it. I don't drink it to get drunk, I drink it to enjoy its flavor and taste. Think of me as a non-snooty beer aficionado. You love this great beverage as well, so let's drink to that.

My first beer review should be posted within the next day. I can't do it know because I gotta go to work.