Saturday, October 11, 2008

"33" Export

As summer turns to fall (or, in Reno, skipping fall entirely and segueing right into winter), light, summery beers fall by the wayside, giving way to thicker, darker, chewier beers that warm you from the inside out. I have plenty of those beers in my mini-fridge, but I wanted to have one last crack at a summery lager. That, and we were out at Vietnamese food tonight and the urge hit me to pick up the blog again.

The beer I tried is another of your standard Asian beers, "33" Export. Now, this beer is very confusing to me, especially trying to discern the origin. The bottle says it's from Vietnam, but RateBeer's The Beer Guide claims it's brewed by Heineken in Schiltigheim, Alsace, France. I also could find virtually zero information from what I would consider an official site. No brewery page, no importer page, no real whiffs of any kind on the information front. Heineken's French site is down (according to, since February 12th of this year), and for some reason RateBeer is being flagged by Firefox 3 as being a malicious site, so I had to dig elsewhere. I tried going through's caches of the site, except that since it's Flash-based, nothing loads properly, and the older ones I can get to work don't mention "33" at all.

The only thing I know is that the Vietnamese brewery that the bottle claims brewed this beer used be owned by Foster's (yes, that Foster's) but was sold to Singapore's Asia Pacific Breweries in 2006. They still make Foster's and other local beers, but no mention of "33" exists on their web site. The only other information I even have about it is a random Flickr picture of a French bottle of "33" complete with information...where the ABV on the bottle doesn't match the ABV in the photo comments. I think I believe the Flickr guy, though, when he says that Heineken France holds the recipe but VBL Tien Giang Ltd. holds a license, which allows the bottle to say "Product of Vietnam" on it. UPDATED See below (APB in Vietnam, random Flickr image)

(I took a picture on my cell phone at the restaurant, but it's a -3 megapixel camera, so this empty bottle shot is all you get this time around.)

Here come the (limited) stats:

"33" Export
BREWERY: VBL Tien Giang Limited, My Tho Industrial Zone, Binh Duc Commune, Chau Thanh District, Tien Giang Province, Viet Nam (yes, all that was on the bottle)
US IMPORTER: Nicolas Wines, Westport, CT, USA
STYLE: Lager
ABV: 4.5%
MALTS: "Malt"
HOPS: "Hops" (descriptive, no?)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Vietnamese food, I imagine

I got this information off the bottle, and also from a nice e-mail from Nicolas Wines (see below).

This beer pretty much looks like your standard Asian lager: bright gold in color, bright white head, hoppy aroma, the whole nine yards. At first, the taste was somewhat under average. Better than most beers I've had from the region (I'm looking at you, Singha and South Korea), but still somewhat pedestrian in taste. Then I tried it after I took a bite from my Srirachi and fish sauce-infused beef ball pho, and the beer took on an enjoyably sweet characteristic, almost champagne-like in transformation. The hoppiness of the beer lingered, but it wasn't distracting, probably because I shoveled another mouthful of hot noodles in my trap less than 10 seconds later.

I guess these Asian lagers are supposed to complement the dishes they are served with (hell, I guess that's every alcoholic beverage). Unlike some beers I thought didn't (once again, Singha...), this one paired very well with my pho. Does this mean that I'm off the micros and hitting the French/Vietnamese suds from now on? Um, no. Not quite. But I will admit it wasn't half least while my tongue was on fire.

Cạn ly!

P.S. I still have no clue what the "33" means. It might be the year of first brew. It might be the recipe number. It might be its Beverage Testing Institute score. It might be absolutely nothing, which is why it's in quotes. One for the ages, I guess. Raise a glass below if you have any ideas.

UPDATE: Imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from someone at Nicolas Wines, the official importers of 33 Export, without any prompting or nagging. They were able to confirm that the beer I tasted did in fact come from Vietnam's VBL, formerly Foster's Tien Giang. Also, they were able to shed light on the origin of "33"; apparently, it "refers to the size of the original bottles at 11.2 ounces, which is a third of a liter," or 33 centiliters. Makes sense if you ask me, although I'm waiting for one of the big three to call their beer "12." I guess stateside you can only use a number in the name if it refers to that beer's calories.

Thanks again Nicolas Wines for your submission! I raise my glass to you.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Widmer W'08 Crimson Wheat

With this post, the Beerocrat will celebrate its Golden (50th) Beeriversary, so drink up! I know I will!

Today's beer, the 50th I've reviewed so far, is Widmer Brother Brewing's 2008 Brewmasters' Release, called W'08 Crimson Wheat. This is the fourth release in their "W" series of beers, available from January to July of this year, but there may still be some 6-packs floating around somewhere. While other Widmer W releases, save for their W'05, have never been re-released as a regular bottled beer (they may have been served at their Gasthaus Pub), this one may have a decent shot for re-branding, as it has already won a silver at 2007's Great American Beer Festival, under the cryptic name "Brewmaster Reserve." A promising start, indeed. (Widmer W'08 homepage, GABF 2007 award list [alternative if GABF link goes stale])

Here come the stats:

Widmer W'08 Crimson Wheat
BREWERY: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: American-Style Ale
ABV: 4.9%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13.75° Plato (1056.07)
MALTS: Two Row Pale, Dark Wheat, Caramel Wheat, Red Wheat, Caramel 10 L, Rye, Chocolate
HOPS: Bittering: Alchemy, Aroma: Sterling
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: A variety of entrées including hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches, and seafood
AWARDS: 2007 GABF Silver Medal Award Winner (American-Style Wheat Beer category, as "Brewmaster Reserve")

Most of this information came from Widmer's own W'08 homepage, with help from the GABF 2007 award list (and it's alternative link).

This beer poured a deep reddish-orange color, a very different color than what I've seen out of Widmer. The head was small, bubbly, and white, staying for a little while. The nose of the beer had a nice malty-sweetness to it and was very pleasing, not overpowering. This malty-sweetness extended to the taste, mixed in with a faint hoppiness indicative of a beer with only 20 IBUs. The finish was grainy in origin, but it didn't go flat or stale in my mouth, instead fading away gently into oblivion.

This is a nice beer, worthy of their W series. Hopefully it will be rebranded as something else like their Broken Halo in the near future, or at least featured in their Gasthaus Pub. If there are any left in stores, pick some up.


P.S. Also, if anyone knows a better file hosting situation (free sign-up and hosting, direct link to file downloads), please do not hesitate to drop a comment. I'd love to switch from early in the game if possible. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Redhook Copperhook Spring Ale

Today's entry covers a beer from one of my favorite craft brewers, Woodinville, Washington's own Redhook Brewery; that beer is their Copperhook Spring Ale. Now, I know you're thinking "hey, wait a minute, it's not's halfway through summer!" I would like to note that I bought it in spring, and it's been relaxing in a cold, dark fridge ever since just waiting to be drank. It gets its chance today. Looking back on previous entries, I'm surprised I've never done a brewery history on Redhook, at least a comprehensive one.

The history of Redhook starts in the Scandinavian working-class Seattle neighborhood of Ballard in May 1981, when Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker founded the brewery. The first batch of their Redhook Ale was poured in 1982. Unfortunately, Seattleites were "maybe a little confus[ed]" about this beer, called the "banana beer" because of its flavor. Less than 1,000 barrels were sold that year; sadly, this beer is no longer available in that initial form. However, their next brews, 1983's Blackhook Porter and 1984's Ballard Bitter (now known as Longhammer IPA) were met with much greater acclaim, and 1987's ESB (Extra Special Bitter) became their flagship ale. To keep up with demand, they moved out of Ballard and into a new brewery in nearby Woodinville in 1994, while expanding their east coast presence with a brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1996. As previously mentioned, Redhook and Portland's Widmer Brothers Brewery merged to form the Craft Brewer's Alliance in 2007, which was finalized in 2008. (Redhook's history link, not direct-linkable; go to Redhook main page → About Redhook → Redhook History)

The history of Copperhook itself is not nearly as long-winded. It began life in 2001 as two different beers: the Chinook Copper Ale, and the Chinook Stock Ale, later renamed Late Harvest Autumn Ale. Chinook Copper Ale was sold year-round, but only in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. It was pulled from the shelf in the summer of 2005 due to a redesign of the bottle and label layout of all Redhook products, combined with Redhook's leasing of the name "Chinook" from Yakima Valley's Chinook Wines. Instead of dealing with all the rights issues associated with continuing to lease the name, Redhook re-christened it as Copperhook Spring Ale, their spring seasonal, in the spring of 2006. It was still temporarily available only on the west coast at that time, with their delicious Nut Brown Ale filling in on the east coast, but as of spring 2007 it is now available nationwide with the exception of Utah and Oklahoma (like all their beers).

On a side note, their Nut Brown is sadly no longer available, but may be due for a glorious comeback soon. One can only hope.

(The above info comes from a combination of recollections of the many Redhook brewery tours I've taken and a phone call to the Redhook Beer Guru on August 7th, 2008 at 2:45 PM PDT. Thanks again, Guru!)

DISCLAIMER: This beer has a soft spot for me, having gotten me through most of my junior year of college. I have tried to be as objective as I can in reviewing this beer.

Here come the stats:

Redhook Copperhook Spring Ale
BREWERY: Redhook Brewing Co., Woodinville, WA, USA
STYLE: BeerAdvocate calls it an American Pale Ale
CALORIES/SERVING: 174 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.7%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13.078° Plato (1053.18)
MALTS: Carapils, Caramel
HOPS: Willamette, Saaz
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Barbecue, salads, seafood
AWARDS: (none)

Most of this information comes from Redhook's Copperhook website (not direct-linkable, go to Redhook main page → Our Ales → Copperhook). The rest were answered by Redhook's Beer Guru.

It makes sense that Copperhook pours a copper color into the glass, accompanied by an average-sized soft foamy white head which stuck around a longer than average amount of time. The nose was a grainy texture with accents of subtle sweetness, almost fruity in nature. The taste of the beer itself was hoppy at first, quickly transforming into a malty flavor with carbonation. The aftertaste was a little bit of stale hoppiness, but it didn't stick around; within 30 seconds it had evolved to a slight maltiness that was pleasant on the tongue.

This is a light ale that is perfectly suited for the spring and summer months. It's flavor masks its 5.7% ABV well, making this a higher ABV session beer in my mind. Since Redhook's seasonals for this part of the year are their Sunrye Summer Ale and their newly-nationally-available Late Harvest Autumn Ale, you'll have to wait until mid-January 2009 to pick up a six-pack.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Widmer and Redhook Breweries Merge

My dad forwarded me an article from the Portland Business Journal about Widmer Brothers Brewery of Portland and Redhook Brewery of Woodinville, WA, merging to form a new company, Craft Brewers Alliance. The co-CEOs of the new company are David Mickelson, president and COO of Redhook, and Terry Michaelson, president of Craft Brands Alliance (Craft Brewers Alliance's marketing and sales arm, created before the merger). Kurt Widmer (guess which brewery he's from) is chairman of the board, and Paul Shipman (recent chairman and CEO of Redhook) is chairman emeritus. You can read more about it in this Portland Business Journal article (if the link is stale, here's a PDF version).

I think this is a good thing for both breweries, especially Redhook. According to a January 5, 2007 Oregonian article, Redhook hasn't posted an annual profit since 1996, compared to Widmer's double digit growth between 2002 and 2006. Since both companies A.) are partially owned by Budweiser and B.) have been working together for at least a few years now, I think this merger will go over well, so long as their beers remain separate. You know, keep the Widmer beers Widmer and the Redhook beers Redhook. I do like my Widmer Hefeweizen and my Redhook Chinook, and it would be a shame if they decided to combine all the beers and dropped or combined some.

I do have to say that the Widmer/Redhook conglomerate now presents some decent competition to Sam Adams, the other large craft brewer on the market today. Who knows, we may see some Widmer and Redhook commercials on TV in the next few years.

Apparently, Widmer and Redhook released a joint press release (on Widmer's site, or from here if that link gets stale) about the merger back in November 2007, and have been talking about it long before that, so the Portland Business-Journal is a little slow on the uptake.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale

Happy 232nd Birthday, America!

My wife and I had our 4th of July barbecue tonight, and of course we invited some friends over to celebrate and watch the fireworks. Because we're poor, it was BYOB, and one of our friends brought 6 cans of Buckbean Brewery's Original Orange Blossom Ale. For those not in the know, it is Reno's only microbrewery (the brewpubs Great Basin, Silver Peak, BJ's, and Brew Brothers presumably don't count because they don't bottle their beers), and it is taking Reno by storm. I went into Ben's the other day, and they were completely sold out, and at the grand opening of Reno's Whole Foods, I saw tons of people taking home 4-packs of Orange Blossom and their other beer, Black Noddy, a schwarzbier like Sam Adams' Black Lager.

As mentioned in previous posts, Buckbean was established in 2007 and just opened earlier this year. The Buckbean name comes from the Buckbean plant, an herb which grows over North America and Europe, and also in Tahoe Meadows. Apparently, Buckbean leaves have been used as a substitute for hops and also as a remedy for scurvy and stomach illnesses. Dan Kahn, the brewmaster, says he plans to use the herb in future brewing projects, and I personally can't wait to try them. Original Orange Blossom Ale was created by Dan while he was brewmaster at Riverside Brewing Company in Riverside, CA for their Orange Blossom Festival, becoming the first to use orange blossoms in the brewing process. They got to try it, but now it's all ours. (All info came from Buckbean's website, which unfortunately does not allow direct linking.)

Here come the stats:

Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale
BREWERY: Buckbean Brewing Co., Reno, NV, USA
STYLE: Orange blossom ale
ABV: 5.8%
MALTS: Caramel, Munich
HOPS: "American"
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Tangy, herbal or spicy foods, soft cheeses or pastries

I got this information from the can, which can also be found on Buckbean's website. I will talk with the brewers to see if I can get the rest.

The beer poured a beautiful cloudy orange color, accompanied by a decent white head that did not stick around very long. The nose was unlike anything I've ever smelled in a beer before, a swirl of orange and hops; my wife noted that it smelled like a nice perfume. The taste also was unique, a light hoppiness mixed with a smooth orange flavor, best described by one of my friends as a Blue Moon Belgian White and the orange already in the bottle. The finish was crisp and clean with a delightful aftertaste that didn't wear out its welcome.

Buckbean has truly made a great beer that is one-of-a-kind and fits in with Reno's unique culture. I look forward to seeing what else they can do. For now, you can also try out Buckbean's seasonal tap-only brew, Artown Vienna Lager, in honor of Reno's own Artown festival.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Beerocrat - One Year On

About a year ago, I decided to create a blog that detailed my love of beer. I posted my first entry on June 19th, 2007 at about 7 in the morning. That period of time was a very happy time in my life; I had a great time, I was carefree, and I had ample free time to celebrate my love of beer on this blog. Gradually, things changed; I got married, so I now had a family to support; my job became more and more stressful, eventually spilling into the afterhours; and my stress levels began to rise because of both of those things. Stress and overwork do not bode particularly well for a carefree beer blog that was meant to be a hobby. But fortunately for you Beerocrat fans, I'll be making more and more frequent entries.

I was laid off from my IT job yesterday.

It was a total shock when it happened, but my former company needed to downsize, and unfortunately I was among the few who were let go. I am still saddened by it (considering it happened only yesterday, and considering that I loved that job and my co-workers), but I hold no ill will towards my ex-company, and especially towards my former co-workers and managers, some of whom are aware of, and have supported, this blog and its exploits. Still, I drowned my sorrows with - you guessed it - a few beers. There's no better feeling than drinking beer at the Silver Peak at 11 in the morning on a Wednesday.

For you, dear reader, this means more entries and a renewed commitment to excellence, and no better time to renew my commitment than to do it on the first anniversary of this here beer blog.

Since its too late to do an entry tonight (I swear I'm turning into a crotchety old man at 24), I'll post one tomorrow. Now that I can call breweries during normal work hours to get more information, I can get the information and review to you quicker than I have in quite some time.

In the meantime, I got this in my inbox a couple days ago. Redhook, one of Seattle's largest breweries, has started a new viral marketing campaign called the What Would Redhook Do? Coaster Contest. You create a slogan with what you think Redhook would do, like "Redhook would lower gas prices" or "Redhook would date the hot girl's ugly friend", add a background photo, then upload it. Other people who visit the site can vote on your entry, and if enough deem yours worthy, it will end up on coasters nationwide, a pretty sweet deal. You can find the caption contest here.

Take care, and I'll post a new review tomorrow.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Buckbean's Grand Opening Recap

As mentioned in my previous post, Reno's own Buckbean Brewery had their official grand opening today at their brewery on 1155 Rock Blvd. Suite 490. I, like at least 100 or so of my fellow Renoites, went to check out the beer, the food, the ice cream from Tahoe Creamery, the beer, the roller derby girls, and the beer. I had the pleasure of tasting the three beers Buckbean had on tap, including their new Artown Vienna Lager, which happens to be the official beer of Artown, Reno's annual monthlong arts festival starting around July 1st. I also was able to briefly speak with Doug, the president, and Dan, the brewmaster, and express my support for Reno's only microbrewery (I don't count brewpubs like Great Basin or Brew Brothers). Sadly, because of Buckbean's size, the Artown Lager is only available on tap, so we won't be seeing their seasonals in can form for another year or two.

Below are some photos I snapped at the event.

The outside of the Buckbean Brewery in SE Reno.

All these cans of Black Noddy Lager and Orange Blossom Ale are empty. Apparently they have to buy them by the full truckload – about 2,500 cases worth at a time.

A close-up of the empty Black Noddy cans.

You don't wanna touch the cans, lest you get cursed with flat oxygenated skunky beer.

These cans have yet to receive their fate.

Hidden amongst other boxes are those of rival craft brewers like Deschutes and Buzzards Bay.

A better view of the empty cans. Time to get to drinking.

A shot of the canner and other brewing equipment, looking towards the front of the brewery.

Looking from the front of the brewery towards the back.

Dean Heller scores major points with me with this Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. Apparently Congress does do things the people like...sometimes.

The Battle Born Derby Devils show off some of their moves in Buckbean's back lot.

I look forward to keeping in contact with Dan and Doug and helping promote Reno's only microbrewery, and I give them what they most deserve: A hearty "prost!"

P.S. Buckbean and its brewers were featured in an article in the June 12th, 2008 edition of the Reno News & Review. It can also be found online.

P.P.S. The Reno Gazette-Journal had an article about Buckbean that ran on June 8th as well. Seeing as how I don't subscribe to the RGJ, that one slipped by me. However, it too can be found online.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Buckbean Brewery Grand Opening Saturday!

If any of you are going to be in town this weekend, the Buckbean Brewery is going to have their grand opening on Saturday June 14th from 11 am to 9 pm. Not only is local radio station KTHX going to do a live remote from there, but all sorts of entertainment will abound, from a photo-op with a roller derby team to live music. And, of course, no brewery grand opening is complete without free beer tastings. That last bit is more than enough of a draw for me. You can get more info on the event on their website (they have no direct linking, so click "Events/Community" at the top, then mouse over the 14th of June).

The Buckbean Brewery is new to the Truckee Meadows, only being established in 2007 and moving into their current location earlier this year. I've had their two beers, Black Noddy Schwarzbier and Original Orange Blossom Ale, at a friend's graduation party from a keg, and while those beers were flat (full disclosure), their flavors were still extraordinary, especially the Orange Blossom. I can't wait to try them with carbonation on Saturday. I also am looking forward to chatting up the brewmasters; it's good to have another microbrewery proper in the Truckee Meadows, aside from Brew Brothers, BJ's, and Great Basin, of course.

Don't go looking up the brewery's location on Google Maps yourself, because it won't point you to the right place. Instead, I've pointed to the brewery's exact location in their office complex on the map below. Use that to navigate, and I'll see you there!

View Larger Map


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hite Exfeel-S

In my last post, I mentioned that I was in the far-off land of South Korea, experiencing the culture and the beer. Furthermore, I said I going to write a blurb about my experiences and post it here as part of some entries about Korean beer. Wellllll...the ensuing entry I wrote in my notebook during the 10-hour flight between Seoul and San Francisco clocked in at almost 12 full pages of unadulterated text, so that's probably not going to appear here. So, let me sum it up South Korea for you: Technologically-savvy, wants Korean unification under South Korean rule, hates Japan, dislikes American military, loves American civilians, wants to be more western, kimchi, kimchi, kimchi.

Drinking is a big part of South Korean culture, especially between the boss and his co-workers. The drinking age is 18, and no one bats an eye at drinking in public. People mostly drink soju, a rice vodka; some sort of bamboo-based alcohol that tastes like apple cider; and makkele (not sure on the spelling), a thick white rice beer; all were delicious. Then there was the beer. I was deeply saddened to discover that there was virtually no good beer in all of South Korea. The three main brands, Hite, OB, and Cass, were South Korean equivalents to Miller, Bud, and Coors. I had just about every brand of beer I could find in the numerous convenience stores around where I was staying, and I can tell you that for the first time, I'd've taken a Bud over another can of Hite or Cass Lemon. The best the country is Guinness, but no, I had to have a Hite Black Beer Stout instead.

To quote Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics, "God, I suffer for my art."

On every trip aborad, I try to bring a beer back from the country I came from. This time, it was Hite (pronounced like "height") Exfeel-S. It caught my eye, not because of the green bottle (sigh...), but because of its claim as "The stylish beer with fiber." Yes, fiber. They put 1.65 grams of fiber in every 330 ml bottle because Koreans apparently don't get enough fiber. No really, that's what they claim on Hite's website. Ingenious, in my opinion. Other than its fiberousness, I can't tell you any historical information about the beer, but according to Hite's website, the company itself started as the Chosun Beer Company in 1933, growing due to various acquisitions and mergers throughout the years.

Here come the stats:

Hite Exfeel-S
BREWERY: The Hite Co., Ltd., Yeongdeungpo-Dong, Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, South Korea
STYLE: "Fiber beer"
DIETARY FIBER/SERVING: 1.65 g per 330 ml bottle
ABV: 4.1%

The limited information came from Hite's English Site, except the location of Hite's headquarters, which came from some sales lead site.

When I poured the beer, it was a clear golden color with a foamy white head. The smell was pretty nondescript, smelling like a Bud or Coors. But what really threw me was the taste. Man oh man was it bad. And I don't like to bad mouth a beer, but the taste was horrible. I tried this with some friends, and one of them described the taste as "grass beer." I would describe its taste more like a spoilage-riddled Becks Light. To make matters worse, the aftertaste was a stale spoilage-riddled Becks Light flavor, and it just kept building and building as the beer got warmer. Yuck.

While I admire their attempt to get Koreans to add more fiber to their diets by slipping it into their beer, they should've put it in a better beer. Their website claims that "Simply holding [Exfeel-]S makes you a style leader." I say, simply holding Exfeel-S makes you a person holding the worst beer I've ever tasted. If you go to Korea, avoid Exfeel-S in the convenience stores and grab a Guinness. Or seek out the rare Korean microbrewery, whose beers aren't sold in most convenience stores over there. Or (I never thought I'd say this) don't have a beer.

건배 (Geonbae)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Beerocrat Abroad: South Korea

안녕하세요 (hello), and welcome to another episode of The Beerocrat Abroad. This week, the Beerocrat is spending almost two weeks in and around Seoul, South Korea, visiting a friend and experiencing the culture, which of course means that I'll be having a beer or two while I'm here. While I may not be able to upload pictures at this time, I'll do my best to relay my experiences while in Seoul. It's gonna be another one of those longs posts again, so you have been warned.

건배 (Geonbae)!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition

I admit that as a beer blogger, I've messed up and missed some big events, like the passing of renowned beer hunter Michael Jackson and this year's St. Patrick's Day (which I did start and entry and only was able to finish it yesterday). However, tomorrow is a day that I can't, as The Beerocrat, miss: The repeal of the Volstead Act of 1919 on April 7th, 1933, otherwise known as the repeal of the national scourge known as Prohibition.

Many breweries, notably Anheuser-Busch, are hosting a number of events to mark the 75th anniversary. They are planning, among other events, to rebroadcast then-president of AB August Busch, Jr.'s speech on CBS radio that he made the same day President Franklin Roosevelt legalized beer in the 19 states that repealed their own Prohibition laws. Chances are that your local bar, pub, or brewery is having their own celebration to mark the occasion.

However, as with most things involving alcohol, there's some controversy surrounding this day, specifically if this is really the 75th anniversary. Many historians and critics of the beer industry say that Prohibition didn't truly end until December 5, 1933, when Utah ratified the repeal amendment. In spite of that, the fact that any American could have a beer, even 3.2% ABW beer, 8 months before Utah's ratification makes April 7th the start of the decline.

While April 7th is a joyous occasion, it still boggles my mind that we still have the vestiges of Prohibition 75 years on. There are many dry counties, including the county that contains Lynchburg, Tennessee, better known as the home of Jack Daniels. Many states, most famously Utah and Oklahoma, limit which alcoholic products can be sold and what ABV they may contain. Different labeling standards sometimes prevents beer from passing through certain states and counties. The words "last call" prevent people from enjoying a long night out. Some states that are otherwise progressive in their attitudes towards alcohol, like Oregon and Washington, prevent hard alcohol from being sold in grocery stores, relegating them to state-run liquor stores. Then there are the infamous "blue laws," or laws which legislate morality, that prevent people from buying alcohol on certain days of the week, most often Sundays; these are found all over the South, but also as far west as Colorado.

It makes me angry that these laws and regulations still exist, and if you are a freedom-loving American (or really an American that enjoys alcohol), you should hate them too. We as a free society should do everything in our power to overturn these silly, restrictive laws and regulations regarding beer. It's fine with me if you don't drink, just don't tell me what I can and cannot drink and when I can and cannot buy it. The repeal of Prohibition is about freedom, and I will raise my glass to it, and I will dedicate myself to getting rid of these restrictions wherever they exist. I identify more as a Democrat or a liberal, but any politician who stifles alcoholic freedom, regardless of whether they have a -D or an -R after their name, are in my sights.

So raise a glass to the return of freedom, and let's all work to make alcohol more accepted across the entire nation.


My sources:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wexford Irish Cream Ale

*NOTE* This post was intended for St. Patrick's Day 2008, but job stuff got hectic and prevented me from posting it. Here it is in its entirety. I kept the post date the same, as it was started on that day.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Be sure to have one on your friend The Beerocrat tonight...and drive safe.

My St. Paddy's Day beer of choice is my attempt at getting an Irish (or at least Irish-style) beer that wasn't a member of the Guinness family. My choice: Wexford Irish Cream Ale, which takes its name from Ireland's County Wexford. According to the can (yes, this beer is canned, which is not uncommon amongst imported beers and even U.S. craft breweries), Wexford Irish Cream Ale's recipe is based on a similar one brewed in the eponymous county back in 1810. Thames America, one of the American importers, says that the recipe was then used by five generations of the family-owned Wexford Ale Company. It is now brewed by Greene King Brewing Co. in Suffolk, England. Hey, at least it has Irish roots. (Thames America's Wexford site)

Here come the limited stats:

Wexford Irish Cream Ale
BREWERY: Greene King Brewing Co., Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England
STYLE: Irish Cream Ale
FIRST BREWED: 1810, according to the can
ABV: 5%

I got the brewery, first brewed info, and ABV from the can, which can also be found on importer Thames America's Wexford site. Through that site, I sent an e-mail to get the rest of the missing pieces.

Like a lot of well-known beers imported from the British Isles, Wexford has a widget full of nitrogen placed inside during the canning process, which gives it a burst of creaminess to the flavor and allows you to bring the pub experience home with you. Wexford's widget looks like this, which is similar to Guinness' can widget in size and shape:

Apparently, its the first widgeted Irish Cream beer sold in the US. (Thames America's Wexford site)

The beer itself was a translucent amber color. The tan head exploded in the bottom of the glass, even when I poured it slowly (probably on account of the nitrogen). It flowed downward, much like a Guinness does. Its nose had a bit of grainy-hoppiness to it. The taste was creamy and grainy, almost velvety; it was very rich for an amber ale. The finish was nice and faint with no hoppy aftertaste.

Overall, this is a well-done beer. Considering that it was the closes thing to an Irish beer that I could find (no Beamish), I may just have this every March 17th.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sierra Nevada Updates

I updated a couple of my Sierra Nevada posts to add caloric, temperature, and food pairing information. I should have a new entry tomorrow, but take a look at these pages for the updates:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale (2007 Vintage)

Number 5 on my Clean Out the Fridge Countdown Part Deux was originally going to be Full Sail Brewing's Ltd. Number 2 Lager. Unfortunately, my bottle has long since expired, and Jaime Emmerson from Full Sail said their beers taste their absolute best within the first 120 days of bottling. Hence, it has been taken out of the countdown and replaced with a beer that I've been conditioning for the past year. You'll find out what that is soon.

Instead, the distinction of Number 5 is going to Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale (for brewery history, see my Sierra Nevada Summerfest and Sierra Nevada Stout pages). This beer, named because it is brewed each year for the anniversary of the opening of the brewery in 1980, was actually only available at their brewpub in Chico until 2007, when it was bottled for the first time. Said founder Ken Grossman:

When we heard people had driven all the way from San Francisco last year to try some of this beer, and how disappointed they were when they couldn't take some home, we figured it was time to make our Anniversary Ale available to everyone on a consistent basis.
Also, according to Sierra Nevada Brand Manager Sierra Grossman (who also happens to be the daughter of the founder), demand for the beer to be bottled grew sharply after the 25th batch was brewed in 2005. It is an American-style IPA that took home the Silver at the Los Angeles County Fair in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category. (Anniversary Ale Press Release, Sierra Nevada awards)

Here come the stats:

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale
BREWERY: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA, USA
STYLE: American-style IPA
FIRST BREWED: 1981 (draft), 2007 (bottled)
CALORIES/SERVING: 189 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.9%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 14.9° Plato (1061.04)
MALTS: Two-row pale, caramel & munich
HOPS: Chinook, cascade
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Assertive aged cheeses, southeast Asian or Indian dishes, west coast salmon, bittersweet chocolates
AWARDS: 2007 Los Angeles County Fair Silver Medal (American-Style Strong Pale Ale category)

All the information except for the calories and the serving temperature came from the Anniversary Ale web page. Those other two pieces of information came from sources at the brewery.

The beer poured a clear bright amber color, producing a foamy slightly off-white head that stayed awhile. Bubbles were clearly seen ascending from the bottom of the glass, reminiscent of champagne (take that Miller High Life). The nose was more hoppy than grainy, but still fainter than usual. The taste was a hoppiness that transformed to a wheaty flavor and texture towards the finish. The aftertaste was a bit hoppy, but not overly so, and it didn't remain for long. It was very fresh tasting overall.

While maybe not hoppy enough for hopheads, Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale is one beer I'll be having at least once every year. Pick it up at your local beer store. (I don't know about distribution areas, but you could probably get it anywhere on the west coast, the closer to Chico the better.)


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

Coming in at Number 6 on the Clean out the Fridge Countdown Part Deux is another brew from the Deschutes crew: Deschutes Obsidian Stout (for Deschutes' history, see my Black Butte Porter review). This beer, like so many from Bend's first brewery, is named after a nearby landmark, specifically the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, located 13 miles south of Bend, which contains one of the world's largest obsidian flows (over 700 acres), called the Big Obsidian Flow. According to Deschutes' head brewer Brett Porter, Obsidian Stout has a solid following amongst beer drinkers, and is brewed using whole-flower hops, which means that the hops are not in pellet-form and allegedly give off a better aroma and flavor. They must be doing something right, because it has won a myriad of awards over the past decade. If you can, try it at their brewpub; it is served in nitrogenized form, where nitrogen and CO2 are infused into the beer to give it a smoother, creamier taste. (Cascades Volcano Observatory website, Deschutes Obsidian Stout website, phone call with Brett Porter)

Here come the stats:

Deschutes Obsidian Stout
BREWERY: Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR, USA
STYLE: Stout
CALORIES/SERVING: 220 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 6.4%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 16° Plato (1065.84)
MALTS: wheat, black barley, roasted barley, carapils, munich, higher-colored British caramel
HOPS: Nugget Willamette northern brewer
SERVING TEMPERATURE: Either room temperature or cold (in the fridge for 1 hour prior to drinking)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Chocolate, red meat, shellfish, oysters
AWARDS: A ton...

I got the calories, IBUs, ABV, and awards from the Deschutes Obsidian Stout website. The rest came from a phone conversation with head brewer Brett Porter on February 18, 2008. (Another cool guy who called me in the early evening on a holiday to answer my questions. I really appreciated the time he took for some Reno beer blogger.)

Like many stouts I've had, this one poured thick and black, with no light visible on the other side. Despite my best efforts to keep the foamy tan-colored head within the confines of the glass, it almost overflowed. A strong smell of roasted coffee and dark chocolate emitted from the beer, including, I think, a slight hint of smoked wood. The taste was a hoppy roasted coffee with a little carbonation, but it transformed into a strong hoppy finish. The beer was very velvety, and I really wish that I had some chocolate on-hand.

This beer has a lot more flavor than your average Guinness stout. Pick one up at a nearby retailer, or stop by their brewpub the next time you're in Bend (soon to expand to Portland).


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws (2007 Vintage)

Today, I opened up my fridge and found that I have a lot of beer in there. Which is usually good, except I keep wanting to buy more beer. However, I need to drink this beer before I buy more so that the beer I bought doesn't go bad and thus go to waste. Hence, I have decided to start another Clean out the Fridge Countdown. You at home can follow along with me as I go through all the beer that's in my fridge in no particular order.

From L to R: JosephsBrau Winterfest Lager, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws Barley Wine Ale, Buffalo Bill's America's Original Pumpkin Ale, Full Sail LTD #2 Lager, Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale, Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale

First on my list (and coming in at Number 7) is the 2007 vintage of Hair of the Dog's Doggie Claws (for brewery history, see Hair of the Dog Ruth), a barley wine that's "brewed in the west coast style." Brewed in September/October of every year and released in November, it's a winter seasonal that will truly warm you up with it's 11.5% alcohol content. This is officially the strongest beer I've had, with HotD's other strong beers, Adam and Fred, being the runners up. This will mark the fourth Hair of the Dog beer I've had, and I haven't been disappointed yet. I'm expecting this one to pack a wallop.

After speaking with Alan Sprints, he revealed that it was first brewed in 2000 as "Fido" and it was only available on draught when he entered it in the Toronado Barley Wine Festival (which is actually going on right now in San Francisco). He bottled it one year later and changed its name to Doggie Claws. He now brews 350 cases a year, half of which is sold at the brewery and the rest is sold in Oregon and Washington. Every November, he throws a big release party, an event that I'll have to attend sometime soon.

Here come the stats:

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
BREWERY: Hair of the Dog Brewery, Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: West-coast barley wine
FIRST BREWED: 2000 (draught), 2001 (bottle)
CALORIES/SERVING: ~200 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 11.5% (my bottle says 11%)
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 25.67° Plato (1110)
MALTS: Organic pilsner, British crystal
HOPS: Amarillo, simcoe
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Spicy cold cuts, cured meats, pizza, ginger cake
AWARDS: 2006 Hard Liver Barleywine Fest 1st Place

I got the style, IBUs, and ABV from the Doggie Claws webpage, and the award came from the Hard Liver Barleywine Festival Past Winners site. The rest came from an interview with Alan Sprints on Saturday February 16th. (By the way, I thought it was really awesome that he called me back on the weekend. He's a classy guy and I appreciate him taking the time to talk to a little blogger like me.)

Once I opened the bottle, I first noticed the hoppy aroma that radiated from the bottle. It poured a clear amber color and produced a foamy off-white head. The interesting thing about this beer is that over a matter of minutes, the beer grew darker and less transparent, evidenced in this photo:

The taste was hoppy, but not overly so; I could taste the 11%-plus alcohol content and the honey that came from Mt. Hood. The aftertaste started off sweet and alcoholic, but transformed into a little bit of the hoppy taste that I don't like; however, that did not deter me from drinking this beer. And I was right: it did get me buzzed.

This beer is a great value for the price and ABV and is one of the most interesting barley wines I've had. Pick up one the next time you're in Washington, Oregon, California, New York, or Denmark (random distribution, I know).


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Steinhaus Fat Weasel Ale

A couple things before I get into tonight's review: I know I haven't been updating this blog very often. I've been going through a couple changes in my life, from holidays as part of a new family to shifting job responsibilities and overtime on important projects. Now that the rush season appears over, I can return to reviewing that sweet sweet alcoholic liquid known as beer.

Also, for some reason changes to Blogger's internal template handling caused my JavaScripts to go offline since I don't know when. They should be working now.

At our annual Super Bowl party, a friend of mine brought over a beer I had never heard of before: Steinhaus Brewery's Fat Weasel Ale. I asked him to leave one behind so I could try it out. I had never even heard of Steinhaus Brewery; according to the bottle, it's based out of Paso Robles, California, known for acclaimed brewer Firestone Walker. I did a little digging and, according to RateBeer, it actually is either a product of Firestone Walker Brewing Co., also based in Paso Robles, or Mendocino Brewing Co. in Hopland, California. My guess is that Firestone Walker does do the brewing, but I can check up on that. Also, it appears that this is another Trader Joe's exclusive brew, similar to JosephsBrau, though I don't know for sure. (RateBeer Fat Weasel Ale, RateBeer Fat Weasel Pale Ale)

Here come the limited stats:

Steinhaus Fat Weasel Ale
BREWERY: Steinhaus Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA, USA
STYLE: Pale Ale or IPA
ABV: 7.1%

I guessed on the style based on the taste of the beer, and the ABV was on the bottle. I'll try to find out who really brews this beer and get the info out of them.

Speaking of the bottle, this caught my eye:

The brewery is misspelled "Stienhaus Brewery Co.", though I'm not sure about the spelling myself. If it really is Stienhaus, then the joke's on me.

This beer poured out a thick cloudy copper color, atop of which was a thick, foamy white head that took awhile to fully dissipate. When I smelled it, it had an aroma of fruits, grains, and a hint of citrus, almost lemony. I took a taste, and my initial impression is that it reminded me of an IPA because of its hoppy and carbonated textures. I thought for a second that I had tasted metal, but that may have been the hops. The aftertaste was mostly clean, but after every subsequent sip the bitter taste of the hops lingered and built upon itself. Meh. At least the alcohol didn't settle on the bottom like some beers.

The hoppiness of the beer was definitely an IPA or an APA, though it wasn't spectacular. Then again, I'm not an IPA person. If you want to pick one up, you can find it at your local Trader Joe's. I don't know about availability, unfortunately.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hakim Stout

After I got home from a long day's work, my wife, her parents, and I went decided to go to dinner, but we didn't want the usual fare. So we decided to hit up Zagol, Reno's new 2-month-old Ethiopian restaurant, for a taste of something a little different. The food was excellent and the honey wine was delicious. But what really intrigued me was the "Ethiopian beer" listed under the drinks menu. I had a choice between a light and a dark (our waitress didn't know the names offhand), and since I've been in the mood for dark beers, I chose the latter.

What arrived at my table was a 330 cl bottle of Hakim Stout, a beer out of Harar, Ethiopia. It is brewed by the Harar Brewery, which also produces a pale lager named for the town and a non-alcoholic beer that is primarily marketed towards the Muslim population. Apparently, this brewery used to be owned by the Ethiopian government along with three other breweries, but they have since been turned over to the private sector. Also, it's the only brewery that sells abroad, which is why I was able to pick one up in the states; it can also be found in Canada, the Netherlands, and neighboring Djibouti. Not much info exists on Hakim Stout, or of the history of the brewery, although I did find an e-mail form I may have to use to ask for additional information. You can too, as I'll provide the link after this sentence. (Ethiopian Privatization Agency: The Beverages Sector, US Embassy in Ethiopia's 1998 Report on Beer Brewing in Ethiopia, Contact Harar Brewery Share Company)

Since I'm a big language nerd, I noticed the bottle had some Amharic (Ethiopia's language) on it. I transliterated it and it says "Hakīm Stāwt", which is pretty straightforward.

Here come the stats:

Hakim Stout
BREWERY: Harar Brewery Share Co., Harar, Ethiopia
STYLE: Stout
ABV: 5.5%
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Ethiopian food, I assume

The brewery, style, and ABV came from the bottle. Maybe I can get an e-mail from Ethiopia soon for the rest.

The first thing I noticed about this beer is that it was a lot lighter in color than most other stouts I've had; it looked more like an amber, as it had a dark amber color, but was slightly translucent. It's head was a tannish color, and it's smell was very fruity. The taste also had a hint of fruit in it, but I noticed a pronounced honey taste in the beer mixed in with its carbonation. It was unlike any stout I've ever tasted. The aftertaste was a strong coffee flavor that was a little bitter, but it faded away over the course of a minute or so.

All in all, a surprisingly good beer. Not a great beer, but a good beer to go with maybe some lamb or beef or injera (spongy bread). Pick one up at Zagol (if you're in the Truckee Meadows) or your favorite Ethiopian or pan-African restaurant.

T'chen chen!