Friday, July 13, 2007

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Pilsner

It's good to be back after a short absence. Life has been kinda busy and I haven't had much time for beer (unfortunate, I know). But now I'm back, and I decided to try yet another seasonal beer: Sierra Nevada Summerfest.

In Spanish, sierra nevada means "snow-covered rocky mountain range" (or "snow-covered saw," if I am to believe my dictionary), and it was the Sierra Nevada mountain range that a Chico, California brewery adopted in 1979 to be a leader in American craft-brewing. Ken Grossman, who first opened a home brew store in Chico with dreams of opening his own brewery, brewed his first batch of the brewery's flagship Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on November 15, 1980, and he hasn't looked back. In 1992, he released the Summerfest, which won a Gold Medal in the European Light Lager category of that year's California State Fair.

Here are the stats:

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Pilsner
BREWERY: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: 158 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.0%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 11.8° Plato (1047.74)
MALTS: Two-row pale, munich
HOPS: Perle, saaz
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Spicy meats and sauces, specialty mixed salad greens
AWARDS: 1999 California State Fair Gold Medal (European Light Lager category)

I got most of this info from Sierra Nevada's Summerfest page, and a couple other pieces (the date and the temp) from an e-mail I sent Sierra Nevada. Thanks Laura! The rest came from sources within the brewery.

The first thing I noticed about this beer is how incredibly clear it was. It may just have been the fact that I took the picture outside, but that golden color just stood out. It had a thick white head that would not go away. The taste was a little bitter and deep at first, but it finished with a light grainy taste. The aftertaste was a little too strong for my taste, personally, but it was not metallic-tasting like just about every pilsner I've had, which is a big plus.

The bottom line is that I guess I just don't like pilsners, but you might. If so, reach for a cold Summerfest and enjoy it.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

The 2007 Great El Dorado BBQ, Brews, and Blues Festival

This event has been marked on my calendar ever since I heard of it: The Great El Dorado BBQ, Brews, and Blues Festival, held today in downtown Reno. At least thirty different breweries, from Sierra Nevada and Widmer to Ruby Mountain and Moylan's, were on-hand to serve the masses who were thirsty for refreshing beer, delicious food, and great music. I, however, was only on-hand for the beer. Here's a run-down of all the beers I had.

I would like to state that this environment may not have been the best for tasting and judging colors, but I tried my best. Reader discretion is advised.

  • Anchor Summer Beer (Anchor Brewing Co.; San Francisco, CA, USA; First Brewed 1984; 4.9% ABV; website)

    This beer had a rich golden color with a bright white head. Its taste was crisp with a nice wheaty finish. I've had their Steam Beer and Liberty Ale, and they didn't really hit my taste buds the right way, but I really enjoyed this beer. I never bad-mouth a beer, and I never give up on a brand if I don't enjoy a particular style, so I'm glad I found this Anchor enjoyable.

  • Lagunitas The Censored Rich Copper Ale (Lagunitas Brewing Co.; Petaluma, CA, USA; 5.9% ABV; website)

    This beer was described to me as a "sweeter, non-hoppy IPA," and they're right. It didn't have that hoppy taste that I don't like, and was pretty sweet-tasting. It had a nice copper color and a great aroma. Maybe IPA-like beers aren't so bad after all.

    Note: The "Censored" is blocking out the word "KroniK," which apparently some retailers had an issue with due to obvious marijuana references. Hence, it was censored.

  • Spanish Peaks Honey Raspberry Ale (Spanish Peaks Brewing Co.; Polson, MT, USA; 4.7% ABV; website (no direct link))

    This beer delighted my nose with its light honey scent and my taste buds with its raspberry overtones. It had a reddish amber color with a caramel colored head. Now I know which beer to ask for when I'm in Montana.

  • Moylan's Kilt Lifter Scotch Style Ale (Moylan's Brewery; Novato, CA, USA; 8.0% ABV; website)

    The guy who served this beer told me that it would kick my ass, and boy, was he right. I had no idea that it had such a high wonder I felt drunk after drinking this. It had an amber color, a slight tan-coloredhead, and a very harsh hoppy taste. It was the first of the beers that I tried that just wasn't my type.

  • Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale (Firestone Walker Brewing Co.; Paso Robles, CA, USA; 5.0% ABV; website)

    This beer had a dark amber color with an off-white head. It had a slight hoppy taste that transitioned into a nice wheaty finish. A very interesting beer with an interesting fermentation method: in a patented oak barrel brewing system.

  • Santa Cruz Mountain Organic Devout Stout (Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery; Santa Cruz, CA, USA; 5.4% ABV; website)

    This was the darkest beer that I had at the festival. It had a dark brown color with a caramel head, and taste-wise had a hoppy taste with a bitter finish. Another beer that just wasn't my type. It is certified organic by the USDA, however, and Santa Cruz Mountain's beers are the first organic beers to be served at the festival (from the RGJ).

  • Ruby Mountain Wild West Hefeweizen (Ruby Mountain Brewing Co.; Clover Valley, NV, USA; website)

    This beer was a lot different from other American hefeweizen's I've had. It didn't look as cloudy and it was served with an orange à la Blue Moon Belgian White. It had a dirty amber color with a small white head, it was crisp with a light finish. An interesting twist on the American hefe.

  • St. Stan's Red Sky Ale (Stanislaus Brewing Co.; Modesto, CA, USA; 5.8% ABV)

    My last beer of the night, St. Stan's Red Sky Ale had a red-amber color with an off-white head. The taste had a slight hoppishness with a clean finish. I may have been a little buzzed, but I swear that it cleared my palette of that skunky beer taste that had accumulated over the course of the festival. Still, it was a little too rich for my taste, but once again, I may have been too buzzed to accurately judge.

All in all, there were some beers that I liked and some beers that just weren't my style, but I enjoyed them all. In any event, I'm going again next year to try the other breweries that I missed. I still have some leftover tokens that need to be used.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Żywiec Full Light Pilsner

Man, it was hot today! I could tell sitting in my office that I was going to catch on fire if I stayed outside too long. (For those of you not in the know, it was 108°F in Reno today, which probably broke a record.) So I decided to wait until it was a little bit cooler to enjoy this beer that had been sitting in the cold fridge for the past week or so: Żywiec Full Light Pilsner. My Polish friend gave this beer to me after I told her that I was starting a beer blog. She's actually already bought another Polish beer for me as well, spoiling me and my love of foreign beers.

Żywiec Full Light Pilsner (pronounced ZHUH-viets, nothing like it's spelled) was first brewed in 1956 by the Żywiec Brewery, which was established 104 years earlier by Albrecht Friedrich Rudolf, Prince Imperial and Archduke of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, Duke of Teschen (that's a mouthful!) while he was the governor of Hungary, along with Karl Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria. A Habsburg (an important European ruling family lineage), the brewery was passed down from generation to generation until it was nationalized in post-World War II Poland. (It also was almost destroyed by the German army in that war.) As a result, descendants of the original Habsburgs sued the Polish government for use of their family name and coat-of-arms in marketing campaigns in the 1990's, which was settled in 2005 for an undisclosed amount. During this time in 1994, the brewery changed hands again, this time to Heineken International, the fourth largest brewery in the world.

Here are the very limited stats:

Żywiec Full Light Pilsner
BREWERY: Żywiec Brewery, Żywiec, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland (a part of Heineken International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
ABV: 5.6%

These stats came mostly from the bottle, but the year came from the company history website.

I had the 500 ml bottle, which their website describes as good for "When you want a pleasure to last longer." (I assume they mean the pleasure...the entire site is full of small English grammatical errors, but I forgive them.) The interesting thing about the bottle is that on the back the Żywiec logo will appear when the beer is at the optimal drinking temperature. The beer had a night light aroma and was a rich golden color, but had an unimpressive white head. The taste was nice and light, but the finish was slightly metallic, lingering long after I had my sip. Becky noted that a friend of hers made this comment about pilsners: "It tastes like you've put a penny in your beer and are sucking on it afterwards." I have to agree with that assessment.

In summation, I really just don't like pilsners, although this one was the best of the ones I had. If you like pilsners, give this one a try. I'd have liked to have tried a more localized Polish beer, but you get what you get. I look forward to the next one.

Na zdrowie !

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat Ale

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Independence Day...unless you don't live in the United States of America, in which case just move onto the next sentence.

To celebrate the birth of my country, I decided that I wanted to try a very patriotic beer this time around. However, I was at a loss as to which one. I asked Becky, who instantly gave the answer "Sam Adams." That, as it turns out, was the easy part, seeing as how "Brewer - Patriot" is imprinted on every bottle. The real dilemma was which Sam Adams, as they have 21 different beers in their repertoire, from the staple Boston Lager to the expensive 50-proof Utopias. Being a sucker for those seasonal beers, I eventually honed in on the Cherry Wheat Ale, picking up two bottles at my favorite Reno beer establishment, Booze Brothers.

Introduced in 1995 as a summer seasonal in the Sam Adams Brewmaster's Collection, Cherry Wheat® (yes, it is a registered trademark) became such a popular brew that it is now served year-round. Sam Adams' website touts it as one of the best selling beers made by the brewery (main beer page, then Brewmaster's Collection → Cherry Wheat). It is brewed with Michigan cherries and a touch of honey in the "centuries old American tradition of brewing beer with native ingredients." The brewery itself, the Boston Beer Company, was started in 1984 by Jim Koch, a sixth-generation brewer who thought that American consumers wanted something better in their beer. From a door-to-door operation, he eventually grew to a company that sells its beer in all 50 states and 20 countries. It also has won 650+ awards for its beer, more than any other brewery in the world, according to the company.

Here are the stats:

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat Ale
BREWERY: Boston Beer Company, Boston, MA, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: 180 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.35%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13° Plato (1052.85)
MALTS: Two Row Pale, Malted Wheat, Munich
HOPS: Tettnang Tettnanger Noble
AWARDS: 2004 Australia Gold Medal, 2006 Euro Star Gold Medal, 2006 World Beer Championships Gold Medal, Monde Selection (Brussels, Belgium) Gold Medal

Most of this information came from either the Sam Adams website (Flash-based, so no direct links) or the bottle. Hopefully I'll get more information soon.

The first thing that I noticed about this beer was its distinctive cherry aroma that bubbled up from the beer the instant I poured it into my glass. It was so intense and fresh, it was nothing like any beer I've smelled before. Its color was a reddish-amber that was slightly cloudy but still translucent. The head was a little disappointing, but I probably just poured it wrong. The first taste was very interesting; I could definitely taste the cherries that were brewed inside the beer, and it went down smoothly and without protest from my palette. The finish had a nice cherry taste that transitioned into a wheaty aftertaste that did not linger or offend.

In conclusion, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat would make a fine addition to your Fourth of July picnic or fireworks celebration. Now, go out there and celebrate the birth of your country by blowing a piece of it up.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Widmer Snowplow Milk Stout

The beer that I've decided to try today is a blast from the past. I picked up this bottle of Widmer Snowplow Milk Stout last December, the last time that I was up in Portland. I drank most of them before I created this blog, but I found one last one in the fridge as I was deciding what beer to have tonight. This dark beer is traditionally released by Widmer between late October and early January as their winter seasonal, perfect for warming you from the inside on those cold snowy days. In stark contrast, I drank this beer when the high temperature outside was 98°, not exactly dark beer-drinking weather, but it still hit the spot.

According to the Widmer Brothers' page for this beer, this beer was the result of the Collaborator Project, a joint venture between the Brothers and the Oregon Brew Crew, one of the oldest and largest homebrewing clubs in the country. The first beer that was brewed out of the project (Summer of 1998), the Collaborator Milk Stout became the Snowplow Milk Stout, launched as the winter seasonal in 2004. It won the Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival, and is now their best-selling seasonal beer. (This according to the Collaborator Project homepage.) An interesting fact: They add 1500 lbs. of lactose per batch of Snowplow. (E-Mail)

Here are the stats:

Widmer Snowplow Milk Stout
BREWERY: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
CALORIES/SERVING: 235 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 17° Plato (1070.25)
MALTS: Pale, Caramel 60L, Wheat, Oats, Carapils, Black, Roasted Barley
HOPS: Alchemy, Willamette
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Rich and decadent dishes like London broil with demi glaze sauce," dark chocolate
AWARDS: 2004 GABF Gold Medal Award Winner (British stout category)

Most of the information came from Widmer's Snowplow page. The rest came in e-mails I sent to the brewery.

Now, when I mean dark, I mean that this beer is dark as the night itself. Its color reminds me of Guinness, but the Snowplow's head is a rich caramel color that lingered and almost overflowed my Widmer glass. The aroma was slight and appealing, making my nose very happy. The first taste was extremely smooth with a thick, velvety flavor that was reminiscent of chocolate beers. It finished clean with a slight milky/coffee aftertaste that was very pleasant to taste.

This is a great beer to enjoy over the winter holiday season in front of a nice roaring fire with that special someone as the snow is falling outside. It probably will even taste better than my bottle, which means that you'll enjoy it even more than I did.


UPDATE: I filled in some of the blanks from an e-mail I received on September 25th, 2007. Thanks so much David! I really appreciate it.