Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nøgne Ø Porter

I am always on the lookout for new beers that come into the Reno area, and one just arrived recently that I had seen before. Over Christmas, in Portland, I told you that I had found a cool beer named "Ø" amongst other foreign beers (I eventually settled on Hinano Tahiti, a French Polynesian beer). Apparently, the brewery itself, not the beer, is named Ø, and it's actually not Ø, it's Nøgne Ø, Norwegian for "naked island". I can't remember the style that I saw in Portland, but the one on sale at Booze Bros. was their Porter. It came highly recommended, so I had to snag it, even though the price tag was a little steep. (Not as steep as in Norway, where it can fetch €12, or $17, a bottle, more than twice what I paid.)

Nøgne Ø (full name "Nøgne Ø - The Uncompromising Brewery" when translated from Norwegian) was started by two Norwegian homebrewers, Kjetil Jikiun and Gunnar Wiig, in Grimstad, Norway (a town about 4 hours SW of Oslo), in 2002. Jikiun, an airline pilot, started homebrewing in 1997 after bringing homebrewing supplies back from Seattle and Chicago. He met Wiig and, after months of persuasion, convinced him to join him in his pursuit. You see, like many countries (including the US), Norway's beer market is dominated by two main breweries, Carlsberg-Ringnes and Hansa-Borg, which control 85% of Norway's beer market. Combine that with strict alcohol control laws (no advertising, alcohol more than 4.75% ABV must be sold in state-run liquor stores, Internet legislation, high taxes, etc.), and it seems unlikely that any micro could survive.

And yet, Nøgne Ø (and many others) has, mostly thanks to exporting 70% of its crop to more tolerant countries. Even though they've had some pretty rough times over the last 7 years, it seems as if Jikiun and his crew have found their niche introducing new beer styles (mostly ales and bottle-conditioned beers) to Norwegians and sharing their interpretations with the rest of the world. The porter in particular was first homebrewed by Jikiun in 2000 and was released commercially in 2003. Jikiun himself has a soft-spot for this particular beer; says Jikiun, "Our porter was developed by me, and I am the one who have made the adjustments required, when we have changed brewing equipment or there has been inconsistencies in malt/hop supplies ... [it] is my baby." (Various pages on Nøgne Ø's site that can't be direct-linked, All About Beer November 2007)

Here come the stats:

Nøgne Ø Porter
BREWERY: Nøgne Ø Brewery, Grimstad, Norway
US IMPORTER: Shelton Brothers, Belchertown, MA
STYLE: Porter
FIRST BREWED: 2000 as a homebrew, 2003 commercially
ABV: 7%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 16.5° Plato (1068.04)
MALTS: Maris Otter, Munich, caramel, black malt, and chocolate malt
HOPS: Centennial and Northern Brewer hops
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Dark chocolate, cheese, red meat dishes
AWARDS: 2008 World Beer Championships Silver Medal (Robust Porter)

I got all but First Brewed, Calories, and the Awards from Nøgne Ø Porter's website (no direct link, so go to the Homepage → Our Beers → Porter). The rest was generously provided by Kjetil Jikiun, head brewer at Nøgne Ø. Tusen takk, Kjetil!

The head exploded out of this beer, even while I was trying to pour it the right way; it emerged a large fluffy copper color. The beer itself was an extremely dark brown, so dark that no light shone through it, despite my efforts. The smell was very pleasant, with a malty and slightly hoppy aroma with strong sweet coffee and chocolate overtones. The beer itself tasted sweet and malty with a larger amount of hoppiness than its smell. The finish dissolves into a strong coffee aroma, but it doesn't leave a bad aftertaste.

Overall, Nøgne Ø is a very well-crafted and complex beer. The beer, and the brewery, deserve all the praise they get for improving the quality of beer in Norway. Jikiun and company are doing something special in that part of Scandanavia, so pick one up in one of the 43 states Shelton Brothers distributes Nøgne Ø's beers to, or also in Finland, Sweden, or Japan for that matter.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pike Kilt Lifter

At the end of our Alaskan cruise, my wife and I were dropped off in Seattle. Now, while I am very biased towards Portland's beer history, Seattle is a great beer town, full of well-known and obscure brews alike. One of them is the Pike Brewing Co., situated a couple blocks from the historic Pike Place Market. Being one of the more widely distributed of Seattle's breweries (they distribute to WA, OR, ID, MT, UT, and AK in the United States and BC in Canada, but not Nevada!), I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I only had enough time to dash in, pick out a bottle I thought looked cool, and dash out. That bottle: Kilt Lifter, a Scotch-style ale that was first brewed in 1990.

Pike itself was opened in 1989 by Charles and Rose Ann Finkel under Seattle's Pike Place Market, in what they call "one of the smallest breweries with the tallest smokestack". There, they brewed their Pike Pale, an Amber ale, and XXXXX Stout, but it wasn't long before they expanded to the Kilt Lifter, as well as numerous other styles, such as a barleywine, IPA, and even Belgian-style doubles and tripels. Pike got a big boost when it was spoken of favorably by the late great Beer Hunter Michael Jackson in 1991, and they've never looked back. They've won numerous awards at many festivals and judgings, and All About Beer magazine ranked their IPA as one of the 5 best in the country and one of the 10 best in the world. Now, as far as Kilt Lifter's awards go, I may have missed some (mostly because I was tired when prepping this entry), but in 2006-2008, Northwest Brewing News rated it the Best Northwest Scotch Ale. (Pike Brewing Website → History)

Here come the stats:

Pike Kilt Lifter
BREWERY: Pike Brewing Co., Seattle, WA, USA
STYLE: Scotch ale
CALORIES/SERVING: ~190 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 6.5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 15.58° Plato (1064)
MALTS: Peated, pale, crystal, Munich
HOPS: Magnum, East Kent Goldings
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Pike pulled pork sandwich, salmon sandwich, Kilt Lifter mac n' cheese (all of which are on Pike's brewpub menu)
AWARDS: 2006-2008 Best Northwest Scotch Style Ale as voted by readers of Northwest Brewing News
INTERESTING FACTS: It's their most popular beer, equally popular amongst men and women alike, and it's "extremely popular around St. Patrick's Day", which is odd considering that it's a Scottish styled beer on an Irish holiday

Much of the info comes from Pike's Flash-based website; first brewed and awards come from History, and bitterness, ABV, OG, malts, and hops come from the Kilt Lifter "page". The rest of the information comes from Pike's own Head Brewer, Drew Cluley. Thanks again for the info!

The beer poured very smoothly, revealing a medium amber color and a white foamy head. The nose was very malty and sweet, with just a touch of hoppiness to it. The beer itself tasted malty and carbonated in equal amounts, perfectly balanced. As the beer warmed up, a little smokiness emerged as the maltiness and carbonation waned. The finish started off a little stale, but actually ended up quite nicely. Overall, a pretty good beer.

I am more of a wheat beer and stout fan, and not usually one for strong ales, but I really enjoyed this beer. Check this one out the next time you're in Seattle or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saigon Export

Recently, I was at the Golden Flower Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Reno, enjoying some of their delicious phở. When I went to pay, I looked over in the cooler next to the counter, and something caught my eye. Next to the "33" Export (which I reviewed back in October 2008) was a bottle with a similarly-designed label: Saigon Export. I decided I needed to buy a bottle and try out another beer from Viet Nam.

Unlike the French-Australian-Vietnamese-whatever brewing situation of "33" Export, Saigon Export's label actually matches what it says in RateBeer's The Beer Guide; it is actually brewed by the Saigon Beer Co. (or "Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp." on the label, or its abbreviation of "Sabeco"), actually based in Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City), actually in Viet Nam. I was able to find that Sabeco brews both Saigon Export and "333" Beer (according to this Reuters report about Sabeco's IPO), which adds a new wrinkle to the "33"/"333" brewing situation; this means I may need to update the entry.

Furthermore, I found Sabeco's Vietnamese site and, thanks to Google Translate, I was able to cobble together a little more info about the beer and its history; apparently, Sabeco was formed in 1977 from a merger the Official Southern Beer-Wine Company (I think that's how it's translated) and the Cho Lon Beer Factory; I assume that it was around this time that Saigon Export was created. I could be wrong, so I may need to verify this info with the US importer. (Saigon Export page, Sabeco History, both pages in Vietnamese)

Here come the stats:

Saigon Export
BREWERY: Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp., Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
STYLE: Rice beer, lager
ABV: 4.9%
MALTS: "Malt"
HOPS: "Hop"
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Vietnamese food, I suppose

I got name, importer, ABV, malts, and hops off the bottle, and serving temperature from Sabeco's Saigon Export site. Is there more to come from the U.S. importer? Stay tuned!

This beer started off similarly to "33" and other Asian lagers I've had, mostly in keeping with the golden color and bright white bubbly head that dissipated rapidly (although I am trying to pour my beers better). However, the similarities between Saigon Export and the other Vietnamese beer end there. I caught a big whiff of a hoppy but overly metallic scent that turned me off; now it was starting to remind me of Central American lagers. The taste certainly exuded that same metal undertone along with more carbonation, like a pilsner. Finally, the aftertaste that lingered was more metal, as if I had been sucking on a penny.

Overall, Saigon Export was a very disappointing brew. I had high hopes for this beer ever since I had "33", but unfortunately it reminded me about the worst attributes of various beer styles I've had: The inconsistencies of some Asian beers, the poor water quality of some Central American beers, and the metallic taste of Eastern European pilsners. Maybe it goes better with Phở, I dunno. All I know is, I'm grabbing a "33" next time I'm at the Golden Flower. However, if you wish to try this beer for yourself, you can probably grab one at your local Vietnamese restaurant or Asian supermarket. Besides, it's not even nearly as bad as Korea's Hite Exfeel-S. But I still wouldn't spend $4 on this one.

Cạn ly!

(Today's foreign language lesson: Beer in Vietnamese is bia)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cusqueña Premium

UPDATE: Additional information was found once I called the importer and found out it was MillerCoors.

About 6 months ago, I noticed that a new restaurant was going to open in a strip mall on Moana Ln. near Kietzke. It was called "El Tumi," and they specialized in Peruvian food. I thought, How exotic, I'll need to try them when they open up. And for the next half a year, I was always so disappointed driving by and continually seeing the "Coming Soon" banner still waving in front of the restaurant. I was worried that they would never open in this economy.

Well, as luck would have it, about a week ago, I noticed that they were finally opened for business. So I took my wife out to Peruvian food tonight to see how the cuisine was comparable to other Latin American food I've had while in Reno. I have to comment that the food was excellent for the price. My wife got a half rotisserie chicken for $6, and I got a delicious chicken, pork, and potato dish called carapulera for $8.95. The fried plantains were also fantastic.

But enough about the food: While I was there, I had to try one of their Peruvian beers. Of the two that were offered (Cristal and Cusqueña), I had to go with Cusqueña for no other reason that it sounded more Spanish (it's the "ñ"). Now, just from looking at their Peruvian website, I imagine that Cusqueña as a company is similar to Budweiser, mostly because it appears they sponsor all sorts of sporting events, concerts, and movies without giving a detailed history of the company of their beers.

So I called the 800 number of the US Importer, "Latam Imports," supposedly based in Fort Worth, Texas. Turns out that Latam Imports is another name for MillerCoors International Brands (which imports Cristal, as well as Pilsner Urquell and others). He directed me to MillerCoors' "Great Beers" website (click Imports and scroll down) and Cusqueña's English website (which for some reason I was unable to find) for the information I didn't get from the Spanish website. So here goes the history; hopefully it's accurate and not just a legend.

In 1908, two German brewers came to Cusco, Peru, and found that the water there was incredibly pure. So they decided to brew a European-style lager in Cusco that adhered to the Reinheitsgebot, or the 1516 German Purity Law, using this water. Enter Cusqueña (Spanish for "from Cusco"), which was first brewed in 1911 and is still apparently brewed using that same water source found 18,000 feet in the Andes. The teardrop bottle shape caught my eye when it was served to me. The bottle also contains an engraving of an Inca wall, including the famous "12 angle stone," a one-ton stone crafted to have 12 unique sides that still sits on a main street in Cusco today. (Like I said, it all sounds pretty legendary, but hopefully true as well.) (Various pages on Cusqueña's English site)

Here come the stats.

Cusqueña Premium
BREWERY: Union de Cervecerias Peruanas Backus Y Johnston S.S.A., Lima, Peru
US IMPORTER: Latam Imports, Fort Worth, TX
ALSO KNOWN AS: MillerCoors International Brands, Milwaukee, WI
STYLE: Pilsner
CALORIES/SERVING: 130 per 11.2 oz. bottle (I've also seen 140 and 143 for 12 oz.)
ABV: 4.8% (I've also seen 5%)
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: (proprietary)
MALTS: Meltcalfe, Scarlett, Caramel, and Barke
HOPS: Nuggest, Styrian, Saaz
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 36°F (2°C) (the Spanish site advocates serving it between 28 and 35°F, or between -2 and 2°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Peruvian foods, I assume; also couscous tabouleh, spicy prawn stew, steamed scallops, and others

The brewery and importer came from the bottle; style, and the first three malts came from Cusqueña's Ingredients page, translated from Spanish; first brewed, calories, IBUs, the last malt, hops, and serving temperature came from Cusqueña's Facts page; and additional food pairings came from Cusqueña's Food Pairings page.

This beer was served to me in an 11.2 oz. bottle accompanied by a frosted mug, which made it look all the more delicious after I poured it. It had a foamy white head with a translucent golden color. At this point, it reminded me of Corona, but with a stronger grainy nose. The real difference between Cusqueña and other Latin-American lagers I've had is that this one had no metallic taste, which I usually chalk up to bad water when brewing. In fact, now that I think about it, Cusqueña may have been one of the best pilsners I've had, mostly because it didn't taste like it was brewed using pocket change. It wasn't skunky, and tasted malty with a little bit of a hoppy bite, but nothing even approaching an IPA. The finish was faint, with a little bit of malt and fruity notes before vanishing.

While it's not my favorite beer in the world, it's a pretty good beer considering it's from a part of the world that brews mostly forgettable lagers. It paired very well with my carapulera, and I imagine other Peruvian dishes would go well too. Since it's the height of summer, it'd even make a good thirst-quencher after a long day's work (or relaxation) in the sun. In Reno, you can pick one up at El Tumi (although they're kind of expensive) and possibly Machu Picchu, the other Peruvian restaurant in town; otherwise, your local Peruvian restaurant or store may have it. Or, use this Find Cusqueña tool I found (it may be out of date, as it only listed locations in Las Vegas for Nevada).

¡Salud y amor y tiempo para disfrutarlo!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alaskan White Ale

NOTE: This entry contains updated information courtesy of the Alaskan Brew Crew.

The Beerocrat is back after a long absence.

My wife and I just returned from an Alaskan cruise last week, where we marveled at the unparalleled beauty of Alaska'a glaciers, mountains, and wildlife. I also had to make a pit-stop at Juneau's Alaskan Brewery to take the tour (and of course, have some beer). While I was there, I noticed that Alaskan released a new beer, Alaskan White, that looked particularly tasty. Our friend from college, who lives in Juneau and was taking us around the city for the day, said that ever since Alaskan released its version of a Belgian witbier, people in Juneau have been drinking it as if it was water. Since I wasn't sure of its availability in Reno, I had to grab a bottle.

Alaskan White Ale has had a long journey. It was originally brewed by Alaskan brewer Tracy Bird as a part of their Rough Draft program in 2001. Ever since then, Alaskan's Brew Crew has been fine-tuning the recipe, finally making it available to the state of Alaska earlier this year. However, they also made it available in the rest of Alaska's distribution area (AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA, and WY) in early May. (I also heard on the tour that New Mexico and Minnesota may be next on Alaskan's list, so keep your eyes peeled!) (Alaskan White Ale Press Release)

Here come the stats:

Alaskan White Ale
BREWERY: Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK, USA
STYLE: Witbier
CALORIES/SERVING: ~157 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 5.3%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 11.63° Plato (1047)
MALTS: Pale malt, malted wheat, and others
HOPS: (proprietary)
SPICES: Coriander, bitter orange peel
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Spicy food, lighter fare, fresh summer salads, grilled shrimp, grilled halibut
AWARDS: Bronze in the West Coast Commercial Craft Beer competition (although Alaskan looks forward to entering it into many future competitions, including the GABF, World Beer Cup, and European Beer Star)

All info except the calories, malts, hops, and serving temperature comes from Alaskan's White Ale homepage and press release. The rest comes from the great folks at the Alaskan Brew Crew. Thanks again for the information guys, and keep up the good work!

This beer had a wafting citrus aroma that erupted from the glass during pouring. The beer had a semi-cloudy golden color to it, accompanied by a bright white fluffy head. The taste was a little hoppy but wasn't overpowering; I also could taste a little maltiness and citrus flavor, and it wasn't too carbonated either. The finish was very smooth with no stale aftertaste.

It's easy to see why this beer is a favorite of Alaskans whenever the sun comes out. I would love to have a pint on tap sometime, but I may just have to settle for a 6-pack. Pick one up this summer anywhere west of the Rockies.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bridgeport Old Knucklehead #12

I finally got my hands on a bottle!

Ever since I've found out about this beer in my Beers of the World book, I've wanted one. I have always been a fan of the barley wine: its thickness, its ability to warm you from the inside, its high alcohol content, and especially its rich flavor. I have not reviewed too many barley wines, the only ones being Young's Old Nick and Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws.

BridgePort Old Knucklehead marks my second Oregon barley wine and my second BridgePort beer reviewed, my first being Ebenezer Ale (see that entry for a history of BridgePort). First brewed in 1989, this beer was designated a BridgePort Big Brew in February 2008. The batch I have, number 12, was aged in American Oak Bourbon barrels and blended back into the cask, which adds a wealth of flavor and complexity to the brew. The numbers not only correspond to the batch, but used to also designate a "knucklehead," or someone who has contributed to the brewing process. I'm not sure to whom #12 is or if they even do that anymore. Oh, and I believe it's bottle conditioned too, but it doesn't say so on the bottle. More fodder for the e-mail. (BridgePort - Our Beers → Old Knucklehead)

Here come the stats:

BridgePort Old Knucklehead #12
BREWERY: BridgePort Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: Barley wine
FIRST BREWED: 1989 (this vintage brewed 2008)
ABV: 9.1%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 20.8° Plato (1087.32)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Desserts, by itself as "an after-dinner libation" (Beers of the World also suggests sausage casserole)
AWARDS: 2002 Brewing Industry International Awards (silver medal), 2000 Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival (2nd place), rated "Highly Recommended" by the Beverage Tasting Institute in 2002

I got all but the calories, malts, hops, and serving temp from the Old Knucklehead page. (Since they've switched to Flash, you need to go to Our Beers and click "Old Knucklehead".) The serving temp came from Beers of the World. A phone call or e-mail may get me the rest of the info.

This beer has a strong aroma, most evident as I poured it into my glass. It definitely had a malty syrupy nose that had just a little sweetness to it. A clear brown color also exposed an off-white, almost tan-colored head. The beer itself had a little bit of sweetness to it, but quickly transformed into an alcoholy malt flavor that, like the smell, was syrupy and thick. Because of all the alcohol (I mean, it is 9.1%), that was the flavor left in my mouth, which to me tastes similar to a hop aftertaste, but better.

This beer is excellently crafted, and I can appreciate its complexity. Since I had it laying around for almost a year in varying temperatures, who knows what a fresh Knucklehead, or one that further conditions for another year or two, will taste. Pick one up in the next month or so. Hell, grab three or four and let some sit for awhile before trying them.

Also: Stay tuned to The Beerocrat because next I will get to some beers I've been dying to review: Trappist beers!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blue Dawg Wild Blue

I have no idea where or when I picked up this beer, but I know that I got it at some point from a friend. I think it was the one who moved to San Diego four months ago because he gave me a few beers that were lingering in his fridge before the move. Anyway, when I was trying to figure out what to have tonight, I found the Blue Dawg Wild Blue blueberry lager in the back of the fridge and decided to give it a go.

It is allegedly brewed by the Blue Dawg Brewery out of Baldwinsville, New York. I say "allegedly" because the Blue Dawg Brewery is a special group within Anheuser-Busch. It may be brewed in Baldwinsville, but it's still a product of the big three. I wonder why A-B needs to hide behind an obscure brewery to produce a decent beer; my guess is that the beer snobs would never go for a Budweiser Blue Lager because they hate the big three, and the economy/regular beer drinkers would get Bud, Busch, or Natty Light instead. Coors takes a similar line with Blue Moon, and I'm sure Miller has a similar situation with some craft beer, although none come to mind at the moment.

After digging a little, I found some information about this particular beer. It was first brewed in 2005 and released to a few cities in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, after which it was further test-marketed in St. Louis in December 2007; it was nationally released last year. A-B decided that it was good enough to put in the Fruit Beer category at the 2006 North American Beer Awards. It was a smart decision too, winning the gold that year. (Wild Blue product info)

Here come the stats:

Blue Dawg Wild Blue
BREWERY: Blue Dawg Brewey, Baldwinsville, NY, USA; Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, MO, USA
STYLE: "Fruit-infused lager"
ABV: 8%
MALTS: 2- and 6-row barley
HOPS: "Aroma hops" from the Willamette Valley, "German hops" from the Hallertau region of Bavaria
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "pork rib roast with fig and pistachio stuffing ... pork tenderloin with apricot mustard ... fruit salad with ginger syrup ... mixed-green salad with dried fruit"
AWARDS: 2006 NABF Gold Medal (Fruit Beer)

The bulk of this information came from the Wild Blue product info page. I will try to get some info from the brewery, but a lot will probably be proprietary, and besides, who at big three breweries ever listen to a little ol' blogger like me?

This beer caught my eye with its reddish-purplish color and light purple head, but now that I know it's by A-B, I'm sure that was an intentional gimmick; the color probably comes from the blueberry syrup that they added to the beer. The head itself was very bubbly but thin, and it didn't last long. It had the pleasant aroma of blueberries with subtle hoppiness. However, the beer itself was a little too carbonated and tasted too much like alcohol, although the blueberry flavor was the dominant one. The alcohol of this beer definitely settled towards the bottom, though, especially as the beer went flat (and it went flat quickly). The aftertaste was sugary and fruity, once again with the blueberry in the lead.

This beer was a little too sugary for my taste, seeming to be a step or two above Smirnoff Ice, mostly because the sugar didn't leave that weird residue in my mouth this time around. This is a beer for people who don't like the taste of beer, similar to lambic beers but produced like a macrobrew. If you want a fruit beer, you could try this one, but I'd stick to the real fruit beers like Lindemans.


Widmer Okto

For the last two or so years, I've always wanted to try this beer. Unfortunately, whenever I ran to the stores to try and grab one, they were always sold out, and the season was always almost over. Finally, when I was in Portland during Labor Day 2008, I managed to find this beer (with the help of my parents).

I don't know much about the history of Widmer Okto, such as how it came about and when it was first brewed. Those will be asked in an e-mail I send to Widmer. (I'm gonna have them running around for a long time!) I do know that this beer is a Munich style ale intended to match the style of beer found at Oktoberfests worldwide. Widmer itself holds an annual Oktoberfest in Portland, with food, music, and a lot of good beer. Sounds like a party to me.

Here come the stats:

Widmer Okto
BREWERY: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: Munich Style Ale
ABV: 5.5%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 13° Plato (1052.85)
MALTS: Pale, Caramel, Munich 60L, Extra Special, Carapils Malt
HOPS: Bittering: Alchemy; Aroma: Mt. Hood, Tettnanger
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Grilled bratwurst, burgers & other hearty fall fare"

Most of my information comes from Widmer's Okto webpage. An e-mail to the brewery is in order for the rest of them.

This beer poured a dark amber, but not dark brownish, color with an accompanying small cream-colored bubbly head. I really enjoyed the nose of this beer, which contained malts, hops, and a slight hint of fruit. The taste was a little too carbonated, in my opinion, but then the maltiness came through along with some citrus flavors. The aftertaste was faint and malty, and didn't wear out its welcome.

I enjoyed this beer, like I do so many other Widmer beers. This would be a great beer for any occasion, but especially for your local Oktoberfest. Since it's available nationwide (except Utah and Oklahoma) between early August and late October, I guess you'll just have to wait until then.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Widmer Brrr

This was the other (actually, the first) beer that I snagged in Portland over my Christmas vacation. At the time, most of the northern states, including Oregon, were buried under massive amounts of snow; Portland in particular had 15 inches of the white stuff between December 20th and December 24th, when my wife and I landed at PDX. It was amazing that we were even able to fly into the airport at 1 in the morning. We honestly consider it a miracle that we made it.

While stocking up on some supplies at the Safeway in town, I couldn't help but notice that there was a new Widmer brew for sale: Brrr, described on the bottle as a "seasonal ale." What was the most shocking about finding this beer was that there were no 6-packs of Widmer's traditional winter seasonal, Snow Plow Milk Stout. A little research reveals that their website has changed the availability to "Limited Release," whatever that means. I think I need to place an e-mail to the brewery and find out what's what.

As far as Brrr is concerned, this is a new brew, coming out as Widmer's first new winter seasonal in four years. It's possible that this may have been brewed before 2008, but only served in their Gasthaus Pub; I'm checking on that. Speaking of which, Gasthaus says that their beer has "[n]otable hop aroma and flavor" and "[s]tealthly alcohol content." I guess when you clock in at 7.2% ABV, it should be classified as "stealthy." (Widmer Newsletter from Nov 11 2008, Widmer Brrr website, Gasthaus Pub's What's on Tap)

Here come the stats:

Widmer Brrr
BREWERY: Widmer Brother Brewing Co., Portland, OR, USA
STYLE: Seasonal Ale
ABV: 7.2%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 17° Plato (1070.25)
MALTS: Pale, Caramel 10L & 80L, Munich 10L, Carapils, Dark Chocolate
HOPS: Bittering: Alchemy; Aroma: Simcoe & Cascade
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: "Holiday favorites like turkey and ham"

I got most of this from Widmer's Brrr website. An e-mail to Widmer should net me the rest.

When I originally went to taste this beer, it had been frozen solid by my stupid beer fridge (speaking of "brrr"), so I let it thaw in the fridge for a couple days, drinking and reviewing Hinano Tahiti instead. When it was ready and I finally poured it into the glass, it had a gorgeous dark reddish-brown color with some flecks (probably yeast or remnants of the freezing). The head was a puffy light tannish color. The nose was very hoppy and reminded me a lot of Widmer's own Broken Halo IPA (they use the same or similar malts and hops in each), though not as strong. This beer, however, had a stronger hop flavor than Broken Halo, and was carbonated to boot. Like many IPAs, this beer did leave that hoppy aftertaste in my mouth.

This is the problem I have with reviewing IPA-style beers. One may think that I'm bad-mouthing this beer because I didn't particularly enjoy its flavor, and that is blatantly false. Is Widmer Brrr a good, well-crafted beer? Yes. Did I enjoy its flavor? No, because IPAs aren't my beer style of choice; stouts, porters, and strong ales are. However, anyone who enjoys IPAs will love this beer hands down. It is a well-crafted beer, yet another winner from Widmer, and perfect for hop-heads. Me? I'll be stealing some bottle-conditioned Snow Plow from my father-in-law's fridge. Mmmm.

Widmer says it was only available through the first week of January, but if you hurry, you may still find some on the shelves.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hinano Tahiti

When I was in Portland over Christmas, I went shopping at the local Cost Plus World Market to see what their beer selection was like compared to Reno. I have to say that while a lot of beers were the same, they had some pretty cool beers from other countries (I found a Norwegian beer named "Ø"!). One of my finds was a Tahitian beer by the name of Hinano Tahiti, which I snatched up.

From what I gathered on their website and on the bottle, this beer was first brewed in Tahiti in 1955. For the opening year they went all out, engraving their distinctive "vahine" (Tahitian for "woman" or "girl") logo onto their bottles and launching the Miss Hinano festival. They then expanded internationally: China got Hinano Tahiti in 1960, Japan in 1991, and France in 1992; it is unknown when it was imported into the United States for the first time. The 33 cL longneck bottle (the size I bought) was introduced in 1998. I still have no idea what "Hinano"'s probably Tahitian for something. I asked that question in the e-mail (Website)

Here come the stats:

Hinano Tahiti
BREWERY: Brasserie de Tahiti S.A., Papeete, Tahiti
U.S. IMPORTER: Young's Market Company, Orange, CA, USA
STYLE: Lager, maybe a pilsner
ABV: 5%
AWARDS: "Gold medal in Luxembourg, Brussels"

This information either came from the bottle or Hinano Tahiti's website, which is unfortunately Flash-based to prevent direct linking. I plan on sending an e-mail to both Brasserie de Tahiti S.A. and Young's Market Company asking them about additional information on this beer.

For an 11.15 oz. beer, this one almost overflowed my glass (probably because it took a little tumble just before I took it out of my beer fridge). It poured a pale yellow color, almost like a slightly opaque straw color, but the accompanying head was puffy, bright white, and long-lasting. The smell had a mixture of metal and citrus, which reminded me of pilsners. The taste pretty much reflected its nose, except I could taste the carbonation and bitterness. Its aftertaste originally held the same taste slightly, then changed to a wheaty taste, but after the first few sips, that pilsner taste was all I could taste (leading me to say "taste" six times this sentence...I think I need to go to bed). I'm sure part of the reason my tastebuds had trouble with this beer is that it was served just above freezing thanks to a fridge malfunction.

All in all, not a bad beer, especially if you enjoy those Central and Eastern European pilsners like Pilsner Urquell. Not my cup of tea, but people like bitterness more than I do. I have no clue on distribution, but it's probably only found in select stores on the West Coast.

À votre santé !

UPDATE: Special thanks to Hinatea, who told me that "vahine" means "woman", "girl", or "lady", and that "cheers" translates to "manuia".