New Belgium Fat Tire

People have been hating on this beer lately, but I suppose that happens with all craft brews that are marketed well and are, therefore, very successful. Anyway,  in Mississippi, New Belgium is unfortunately not sold yet. So, I had to pick it up in Memphis.

I got it in the can, as I am a firm believer that most beers (especially this one) taste better from a can. I don’t know if it’s the can conditioning, or the lack of sunlight reaching the beer, or the simple fact that it tastes colder, but I love it.

So, the beer itself is, in my opinion, the standard example of an amber ale. It’s not as complex as a porter or an IPA, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s just a good, crisp, drinkable ale, suitable for tailgating at a football game, doing yard work, or just sitting at the house watching T.V. This beer would be my go to and I would keep it stocked if only it were available in my home state (hint hint New Belgium..)

Welcome Back!/ Review of Innis & Gunn Winter Beer (2012)

For the past few months, I’ve chosen to use Untappd in lieu of blogging.  It is a great app/social networking site, and it was convenient to not have to write a blog post after every new beer.  However, like twitter, there is a max of 160 characters, and that is, unfortunately, nowhere near enough space for my eloquent musings on that most ancient of drinks: beer.  And so, the blogging will now begin again.  I’m sure this will make all six of my followers very happy.  I’ll be writing of new beers, but also some favorites I had over the “break”.  So, without further ado, here is my latest review.

INNIS & GUNN Winter Beer (2012)

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First I should say that you cannot get this beer in Mississippi (I know, against my original stated purpose).  But, you can get it in Memphis, which is about an hour away from Oxford.  I recently picked some up at Joe’s Wine and Liquor which, incidentally, employed my father-in-law while he was in college.

This special edition beer comes from a Scottish brewery I had never heard of, but they seem to be high quality.  The Winter Beer – with  a “vintage” of 2012 – is called a “Porter brewed with Molasses” on the bottle.  As you can see from the picture, it’s light for a porter. In fact, lighter than any porter I’ve ever seen.  Beer Advocate calls it an English Porter – a style I like but just don’t see it with this brew.  I would classify this beer as an English Old Ale, as there’s not much of the chocolate character you usually get with a porter.  The molasses gives this beer a very sweet mouthfeel, but it’s balanced by a subtle hop profile.  Overall, it is a very good (not to mention unique) ale.  I will certainly be trying the 2013 Winter beer when it comes out.

I am a big fan of this beer, but I suppose at 7.4% abv and two in, I’ll pretty much be a fan of anything.  If you ever get the chance to pick some up, I highly recommend. Cheers!

Hops & Barley Studies 101: Intro to Beer Love-Lagers

Recently, my sister-in-law asked me to write a piece describing differences between certain types of beers.  It occurs to me that I have indeed been referring to things like  pilsners, brown ales, and bocks, while the reader may be oblivious to the meaning of these terms.  So, in a two-part series, I’ll be covering the basic beer styles.  Although it may be a bit of a generalization, nearly all beer can be divided into two main categories: lagers and ales.  Today, we’ll be learning about lagers.

My wife and I were recently sampling beers at The Beer House in Ocean Springs.  It’s a great place to get a pint (or quart), but be wary, some of the beer is outrageously expensive.  Anyway, I asked the bartender if he had tried Crooked Letter Brewing’s Italian Lager.  He quickly said that he had not and had no plans to.  As he put it, “I don’t drink lagers.”  When my wife asked why, he replied that lagers have no taste. This type of blind beer snobbery, while very common, is a little overly simplistic.

When pressed, I’ll admit that I prefer ale to lager, but lager certainly has it’s place.  There are some situations when even a cheap lager is better than a good ale.   Because lager is supposed to be served much colder (and let’s face it, it’s disgusting otherwise), it is a much better drink for a hot day at the beach, or a baseball game in the middle of the summer.

While some may say that there is no flavor in lagers, I would argue that the flavor is simply more subtle.  This is why it’s so easy to pair lager with food.  The complex flavors in an ale will often combat the flavors of the food.  There’s a reason the vast majority of beers you’ll find at a Mexican restaurant (even XX Amber and Negra Modelo) are lagers- have you ever tried drinking a Guinness with Enchiladas?  Or a super hoppy IPA with chili relleno? You’ll find that these ales, while delicious alone,  don’t wash down spicy Mexican fare as well as an icy, refreshing mug of lager straight from the tap.

Lager is by far the most popular beer worldwide, making up roughly 95% of worldwide beer sales.  This domination of the market is due in large part to German brewers, who discovered that fermentation in the lower temperature of caves resulted in a cleaner, dryer end product.  In fact, the world’s most popular lagers, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Corona, were all created by German immigrants to the United States or Mexico.  Not only does lager fermentation occur at lower temperatures, but the yeast ferments near the bottom of the tank, thereby eating more fermentable sugars, resulting in a crisper, cleaner taste.   Due to the temperature restrictions, most homebrewers will find ales much simpler to make.

Although there isn’t as much variation in lagers as in ales, there are a surprising number of choices.  I feel that I’ve already spoken up enough in support lager, so I’ll just briefly describe the different styles and list some examples.

American Lagers

Everyone knows American lagers (which was ironically developed by Germans).  Beer of the sports fan, the golfer, college students, and Homer Simpson.  It is the cheapest and most well known style of lager, and also garners quite a bit of hatred.  But not from me.  Some of my top picks in this style (See top 5 cheap beer post) would be Budweiser, Coors Original, Rolling Rock, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Miller Genuine Draft. (…and Duff)                                 duff

Plisners

A little more complex lager that even beer snobs tend to enjoy.  The Pilsner, with it’s drier and subtly hoppier taste, is a good first step in the beer novice’s journey of exploration.  Well known examples are Stella Artois, Heineken, Grolsh, and Pilsner Urquell.  However, my favorite pilsner currently is made by Abita: Save Our Shore Pilsner, a fantastic unfiltered pilsner that will convince even the most discriminating beer lover.sos1

Maerzen/Oktoberfest Beer

This refreshing lager gets it’s two names from the month it was traditionally brewed (March) and the time the beer would come out of the cellar to be enjoyed by all (Oktoberfest).  While the color can vary from pale to dark brown, his drinkable Bavarian brew has a medium to full body, a malty flavor, and a clean dry finish.  To really get an idea of this style, try Ayinger’s Oktoberfest Marzen, a Bavarian beer that usually costs less than $4 for a 1.9 pint bottle in MS.  You can also find seasonal Oktoberfest beers made by better known American brands such as Samuel Adams and Shiner.

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Bocks

Traditionally, Bock (also German) is a sweet, relatively strong (6-7%), lightly hopped lager.   The beer is always clear, although the color can range from light copper to dark brown.  Two well known American variations are Michelob Amber Bock and Shiner Bock. And although it’s not in season, Abita’s Mardi Gras Bock is also a great first bock to try (see blog post on Mardi Gras Bock).

Enjoy this post, as I haven’t found much time to blog lately.  Although I should have plenty of opportunity to do so soon:  I’ll be working on Part 2 of this series,  my terrific sister- and brother-in-law got me a beer of the month sampler (starting this month) for my birthday. Furthermore, I’ll be attending the 1st Annual Oxford Beer Festival in a little under two weeks, along with 2 blog contributors,  so between the 3 of us, there will be no shortage of blog posts to read.  Cheers.

Homebrewing Bill Goes to MS Governor

Homebrewing Bill Goes to MS Governor

Killer.  Finally, the largely unenforced prohibition on homebrewing in Mississippi is close to being lifted.  I’m excited, but let’s just hope Bryant doesn’t decline to sign the bill.  

If this passes, we’ll have a new topic of discussion the blog: homebrewing projects and recipes.

Lazy Magnolia Brewery – Timber Beast

Timber Beast is Lazy Magnolia Brewery’s first beer in the “Back Porch Series”.  “Beast” is a Rye Pale Ale, and with a 9% ABV, it’s clear that the Lazy Magnolia Brewery is taking advantage of Senate Bill 2878 (a Mississippi state law approving sales of beer with higher ABV).

“TB” poured a dark golden color, with a billowy, off-white head that would leave heavy lacing on the side of the glass as the beer subsided.  Its spicy aroma was mixed with hints of Zythos hops, pine and citrus.  The aroma, combined with bubbles from the carbonation make the palate experience of this beer exceptional.

The taste of Timber Beast was certainly full bodied with a hoppy quality that lingered on the back of your tongue.  In fact, oftentimes when sampling these higher ABV brews, they have a tendency to overwhelm you with the overt taste of alcohol.  Lazy Magnolia’s use of Zythos hops helped to hide the increased alcohol volume and give the brew a solid hoppy finish.

Whether you’re sitting on the back porch, or washing down some boiled crawfish on a Saturday afternoon, “Timber Beast” will suit your need.

Southern Porters

The following review was entirely written by my brother-in-law Matt.  Mat will soon be a regular contributor to this blog, specifically covering the Mississippi Coast.  Be sure to check out these fine porters.  Although technically you can drink them year-round, porter is really more of a winter ale, so there are only a few weeks left in the season.  Enjoy!

SOUTHERN PORTERS

A Beer Named “Sue”

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“Sue” was born into this world with a name some might think “unintimidating”, but it certainly packs all the punch and grit beer lovers crave. This is an imperial smoked porter, and though recognizably intense, this beer is your friend.

Porters are generally dark beers with high alcohol by volume. They emerged in 18th century London and Ireland, taking a traditionally hoppy character. Heavy brown ales, barley wine style ales, and stouts have similar qualities, but the precise balance of porters distinguishes the style as one of the most drinkable dark, hoppy beers. To further enhance the richness of porter, the folks at Yazoo incorporate a style of brew that was common centuries ago, when malted barley was still dried over open flame and beer was consequently smoky. Yazoo fine-tunes this method by using cherry wood for smokiness, and counter-balances this with bitterness from galena and perle. And of course, if “Imperial” is in the name, everything is dialed up!  Even if you don’t typically enjoy a rich style, you’ll want to give “Yazoo Sue” at least one chance.

Two sizes are available—the standard 12, and a 1 pint, 9.4 ounce bottle (I’ve only seen this version, lucky me), but this is far from your basic tall boy. This is a beer that most folks could sit back and enjoy, but also one that will keep beer nerds interested. It packs a punch at 9% volume. In August 2012, it became available in Jackson, Oxford, Hattiesburg and the Coast.

As smoked porters go, this is a medium to medium-high bodied brew. Smoke is there, but it’s subtle. The balance let’s porter be porter, while a nice smoky undertone holds to the end. The build is nice, with no one flavor taking over. It’s creamy, but not heavy. It’s hoppy, but not hostile. The mouth feel is more crisp than clingy.  It is a finely-balanced concoction.  A glass pour is recommended, but, admittedly, straight from the bottle is good stuff too. Pair with spicy food.  The folks at Yazoo Brewing should be proud. And a big thanks to them and their local distributors for introducing lots of Coasties to this beer at the 2013 Top of the Hops Beer Festival.  If you’re looking for more technical info, check out Beer Advocate HERE.

Kudzu” Like It

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The folks at Back Forty Beer Company are putting some really good brews on the shelves of Mississippi stores. Based in Gadsen, Alabama, Back Forty is one in a growing line of southern breweries making a good name for their region in the beer world.

“Kudzu porter” is a medium bodied, non-traditional porter, with some chocolate, smoky and citrus hints. If you’re looking for a crisp porter, with all the traditional hops, you’ll be happy with this one. Straight from the bottle is recommended. Pair with grilled chops or chicken.

(Quick Addition by MS Beer Lover) Gulf Porter

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In November of 2009, the seasonal porter by Lazy Magnolia was widely available throughout the state in half-gallon growlers.  Unfortunately, it has been far less available in the years since.  As far as I know, it is currently only available in a seasonal lazy magnolia sampler pack.  This is the porter that made me love the style in the first place.  If you’re lucky enough to find it, get it.

Guest post from Mississippi Beerlover’s Wife

Full disclosure: I’m a wino. I don’t mind drinking beer and I’ll enjoy a blue moon every now and then,  but give me a glass of pinot noir and I’m purring.

But my husband was very sweet to grab a beer he thought I would enjoy today so I’m going to be nice and write something for his blog. Marriage is all about compromise. Kids are all about drinking. Wait, no. I think it’s the other way around.

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So tonight I’m drinking a Blue Moon Valencia Grove Amber. Now I’ve tasted enough of Beerlover’s beers to know that I’m not a fan of Ambers but he might be on to something here. It’s definitely an Amber in color and at first taste, but it doesn’t have the metallic aftertaste that most ambers do. It’s more like a traditional blue moon wheat beer – it has a Valencia orange peel and a touch of wheat. It says that makes for a caramel aroma but I think it makes for a lighter beer that is much more drinkable. Very Smooth.

(Beerlover says I need a few more lines . . . possible pairings etc.)

Hmm. . .well I think it would be delicious with penne and vodka sauce – and this is where I would link to my cooking blog (if I had one).

All said and done, I recommend Valencia Grove Amber by Blue Moon . . . as a perfect gift to get for me on any special occasion!

Beers from the British Isles

I apologize for the length of time since my last post.  Unfortunately, life just won’t let me drink different beers frequently enough for my tastes.

Today, while choosing a six-pack sampler from Joe’s Craft Beer, I decided to keep up with the theme of beers by region.  After some serious thought, I chose the beers of the British Isles.  I’d like to note that I said “British Isles”, and not “Britain”, as two of these beers are Irish, and I would not want to offend any of the many Irish-Mississippians.  The English, Irish, and Scottish know their beers, and I hope that you all get to soon as well.


Bass

100_0768Note: the dog in this picture is also from the British Isles.

Touted as the World’s First Pale Ale, Bass is a go-to when you’re in the mood for a crisp, well-known English Beer.  It is an English pale ale, which is not quite as bitter as it’s cousin from across the pond, American pale ale, and no where near as hoppy as an India pale ale, a style of beer which, coincidentally, was created by the British, but I digress.  To the pale ale virgin, the English style, particularly Bass, is a good place to start.  The hint of bitter flavour is not overpowering, with a smooth finish.  The lack of hoppiness makes for a much more drinkable brew than most other pale ales.

So grab some fish and chips(that’s the full extent of my knowledge of British pub food) and enjoy this amber-coloured ale.  In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I need to tell you that Bass is now an American product, owned by Budweiser, which makes it no less delicious, but just a little less authentic in my view.

Trivia: Bass’s signature red triangle was the first registered trademark in England.

Newcastle Brown Ale

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The classic, most popular, English Ale.  It is literally my favorite beer, period.  It has a delicious nutty maltiness that always satisfies.  It is better when served at a warmer temperature than lager, say 55 degrees, but honestly, this is the only beer that I would drink  at slightly lower than room temperature.  This is very helpful if you live in a city like Oxford, where it is illegal to sell cold beer.

Old Specked Hen

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This English ale only recently became available in Mississippi with last year’s law, but it is already a favourite of mine. It was introduced to my by brother-in-law Matt, and I am therefor in his debt.   As I stated above, I am a huge fan of Newcastle, and Old Speckled Hen shares a lot of the same characteristics.  They both are best served at a slightly higher temperature (Around 55 degrees), they both have a sweet, malty character, and they’re both smooth and oh so chuggable.  However, there are some key differences.  First, OSH does have it’s share of hoppiness, which is really only noticed in the lingering finish.  While Newkies have a nutty flavor, this beer brings more of a toffee flavor.   Not to mention, a six-pack of Old Speckled Hen costs roughly 2-4 dollars more than Newcastle, depending on where you go.

Smithwick’s Irish Ale

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Although I’m a fan of Irish Red Ales, I honestly hadn’t yet tried this widely available brand.   According to the brewery, Smithwick’s is the oldest Irish ale, inspired by the original circa 1710 recipe. The very light carbonation of this beer give it a smooth mouthfeel.  The flavor is dry with a pronounced hoppy bitterness balanced against grainy malt sweetness, with an almost citrus finish.  If you’re not really a fan of stouts, but want still would like to drink an Irish beer this March 17th, this Irish red ale would be a great substitute.

Murphy’s Stout

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Although Guinness is the gold standard of Irish stouts, I thought I would try the lesser known, but no less venerable, Murphy’s Stout.  In fact, Murphy’s was established in 1856, which means that it predates Guinness by 3 years.

The smooth, creamy texture, pitch-black colour, and nitrogen carbonation instead of carbon dioxide, make this beer very similar to Guinness, but for a  stout, there is an  extremely hoppy flavour.  It’s a delicious beer.  So this St. Patrick’s day, instead of going with the standard, impress your friends by choosing a more obscure, yet older, Irish stout.

Super Bowl Pick

For this year’s big game, I thought it would be fitting to feature a classic craft brew from San Francisco.  Now, at the Super Bowl party, all you 49ers fans can show your spirit in a novel way by bringing a beer that is native to the Golden Gate City .  I’m speaking, of course, of Anchor Steam Beer.

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While the location of the Anchor brewery is important, what really makes this beer great for 49er fans is the history of the style.  “Steam” beer (which is now a trademark of Anchor), was originally enjoyed by California prospectors in the early-to-mid 1800s.  Early steam beers were brewed with lager yeasts, but fermented at warmer temperatures due to the lack of means to cool the tanks in the warm climate.  The brew was then cooled by the use of wide, shallow fermenting vessels.  Apparently, this process caused a high amount of carbon dioxide to build up, causing the casks to “steam” when tapped.  Just a little factoid to discuss during the never-tedious Super Bowl half-time show.

Anyway, this medium-amber beer is a lager at heart, but with a hoppiness slightly less than an American pale ale, which gives this beer a dry, almost bitter finish.  I’d usually say that this beer goes with a grilled fish, but that’s not really a party food. So, let’s just say that this beer pairs well with whatever your host or hostess may be serving.

I should note that this post isn’t an indication that I’m a 49ers fan.  I originally wanted to write about one beer from San Francisco and one from Baltimore. Unfortunately, they simply don’t sell any beer in Mississippi that is made in Baltimore, or Maryland, or even any of the surrounding states.  But, if you happen to live by the border, and really want to show your support for the Ravens through your choice of beer, Flying Dog brewery (sold in TN and AL) offers a wide range of excellent brews.

Enjoy.

Finally, an O.S. Brewery

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One of the great effects of the newly enacted beer laws is that now, breweries are starting to pop up all over Mississippi.  I live in Oxford now, but I’m a coasty at heart, having grown up in Ocean Springs. I’ve always said that O.S. would be a great place for a brewery, and now, thankfully, it’s happened.  Being so far away, I’ve only just found out.  Crooked Letter Brewery(great name) will begin selling their first batches of beer in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.  Unfortunately for me, it looks like they’ll only be selling on the coast, so I’ll have to wait until the Tupelo Craft Beer Festival to give it a try. Check them out.  http://crookedletterbrewing.com/