The More You Know…About BEER!: Hofbrau Original

November 6, 2009

Hofbrau Original
By Staatliches Hofbrauhaus (Munchen, Germany)
1 pint 0.9 fl oz (500mL) x2
5.1% ABV

Hofbrau Original

Hofbrau Original

Bottle Description:
The Hofbrauhaus am Platzl is a symbol for Munich’s hospitality, conviviality and sociableness. Guests from all over the world enjoy the famous specialties of Hofbrau Munchen there.

Hofbrau Original embodies the special atmosphere of the brewing metropolis Munich and carries this throughout the world. It’s full bodied, refreshing and its fine hard aroma have made it world famous. A Munich specialty with character!

Got this at BevMo! for $2.19, yet you can find this at any better beer store. Definitely a steal compared to other 500mL German beers. Poured out carefully into a 1L mug giving off a light sulfur aroma that fades into a soft floral yet spicy hop aroma with hints of corn and grainy malt sweetness in the background. The beer is golden in color and leaves a pretty resilient white head with brilliant clarity. I noticed some very small black specks on the head; I can’t tell if that came from the glass or the beer itself (yet its good to note in case). The clearness provides excellent viewing for its strong carbonation which almost rises up like soda bubbles (but smaller). A grainy pilsner malt taste dominates with a slight metallic taste on the back of the tongue. The malt profile is well supported by a moderate hop bitterness with a spicy hop flavor. The finish isn’t too dry but the malt kicks back in after the hops fade away. A medium bodied beer with moderate level of carbonation that provides a smooth mouthfeel. If you’re looking for a flavorful pale lager, this one is for you. Deliciously malty and supported by spicy hops which result in an excellent crafted commercial beer.

Category 1D: Munich Helles
Aroma: 11/12
Appearance: 3/3
Flavor: 17/20
Mouthfeel: 5/5
Overall: 7/10
Total: 43/50 — A-

-Ant

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The More You Know…About BEER: Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock

June 13, 2009

Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock
By Brauereu Heller Bamberg, Germany
500mL (1 pt. 09 fl. oz.)
6.5% ABV

Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock

Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock

Bottle Description:
Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock is the intense sibling of the classic Maerzen Smokebeer. Exactly like the classic all its barley malts are smoked over beech wood logs. Its higher smokemalt concentration and longer maturation in the 700 year old cellars underneath Bamberg create a taste profile of the most intense smokiness beautifully balanced with deep malt sweetness.

I was recently reminded of this beer by Artie who had first tried it at Hamilton’s Tavern in Northpark. If you’ve never been, its definitely a place to check out. Beware though, its quite small and often crowded. Unfortunately, as of what I know, they don’t serve food in the actual bar but they do have a Hamilton’s Café on the side…which has pretty mediocre food considering its extremely appealing descriptions. Just in my opinion that is. Speaking of beer bars, taverns, and pubs, North Park has quite a selection out there. Toronado, which originated in San Francisco opened up not too long ago in 2008, offers great deals (especially their Monday Happy Hour all night with ALL DRAFT BEERS for $3–gonna have to double check on the price though). The Linkery, although I’ve never been, is well-known for its exotic hand-made cuisine. I’ve heard occasionally they serve a kind of lard ice cream with candied bacon bits…Mmmmm. Ritual Tavern which is right across the street from Toronado provides an “Old World” atmosphere with excellent fresh and seasonal ingredients in their foods. If North Park isn’t your thing for beer, you can also check out PB Taproom in Pacific Beach (best website for live beers list), Blind Lady Alehouse in Normal Heights, or Obrien’s on Convoy. Definitely check out their websites, most of them have updated lists of what beers they have on draft and in bottles.

Back to the beer, Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock, which is difficult spelling as well as pronouncing can be purchased at BevMo! and some Whole Foods for under $4. Or, Hamilton’s like Artie mentioned to me before. I actually had tried this beer twice before this review, once in San Jose where I had purchased it at the Cupertino Whole Foods and the other time for my BJCP class. Brauerei (Brewery) Heller Bamberg
Is famous for creating this original style, Rauchbier. Actually, the Classic Rauchbier is brewed with 20-100% beechwood-smoked Vienna malt with the remainder being German malts typically found in the Maerzen style. The beer up for review today is listed as an Urbock Rauchbier, so its remainder malts are probably the ones you would find in a Bock. This type of beer is a historical specialty in Bamberg, in the Franconian region of Bavaria in Germany (if that means anything to anyone who’s been there). I haven’t learned enough about this beer to really comment about its origins (other than the geographical) but its unique flavor is definitely worth mentioning. The aroma will be dominated by its malt (bready/toasty/malty) and its smoke (smoky/woody/bacon-like). When I first had this bottle in San Jose, Vince, Sam, and I all agree that this was basically BBQ in a bottle. It was teeming of bacon and BBQ smoke. So if you love bacon or the smell of smoke, this is the beer for you.

Forgetting that I was reviewing this beer I had poured this beer carefully as not to disturb the carbonation (45 degree angle). I forget if I had mentioned this before, but when aiming to fully taste a beer, its ideal to pour down the middle of the glass to break the CO2 out of solution so the aromas of the beer are released. This beer poured out dark amber-brown with multi-sized glass bubbles leaving a off-white head with low retention. I could be wrong, but judging but the bubbles, this beer is probably not bottle-conditioned (not refermented in the bottle). The aromas are reminiscent of hickory smoke barbeque. The smoky levels are moderately high but a sweet toasted malt aroma follows through in the background. Some hints of wood and bacon are also noticed. No hop aromas are perceived. This Rauchbier pretty much tastes how it smells with a high level of smokiness/woodiness. The hop flavors are unperceivable to my palate but there is a decent amount of bitterness that follows at the end to balance the sweet toasty malt profile. Very clean in flavor with no noticeable fruity esters or diacetyl (buttery popcorn flavor). Finishes quite dry, the smokiness may be enhancing this perception. A medium-bodied beer with moderate level of carbonation. Considering this is one of the original Rauchbier, its hard to give this an accurate scoring other than how it matches the descriptions of the BJCP guidelines. Seemingly it would be appropriate to score this a 50/50, I still feel there can always be improvements to made to aspects such as aroma and flavor (scores that I would probably never score 100%). As to enjoyment, I found this beer to one of my favorite styles considering I love smoked flavors and barbeque. The dryness of this finish is well supported by the smoke and I think would pair well with grilled foods and smoked gouda (a recent favorite cheese I bought from Bristol Farms).

Category 22A: Classic Rauchbier
Aroma: 11/12
Appearance: 3/3
Flavor: 18/20
Mouthfeel: 5/5
Overall: 9/10
Total: 46/50

-Ant


The More You Know…About BEER: Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale

June 5, 2009

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale
By Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster, N. Yorks, England)
550mL
5% ABV

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale

Commercial Description:
Often called “mild” if it is on draft, brown ale is a walnut-colored specialty of the North of England. A festive-occasion beer, brown ale is one of the oldest English brewing styles, mentioned in literature in the 16th century. Beers brewed at the old brewery have a round, nutty flavor because of the Yorkshire square system of fermentation.
Walnut-like color and palate of hazelnuts. Wonderful balance of roasted crystal malt and aromatic hops. Long clean finish.

Ah, the delicious Brown Ale. Almost everyone out there who drinks has had this style before. Newcastle is often the brand of choice. Well, the most readily available commercial version out there.  So, what’s the most distinguishable characteristic about the Brown Ale? Usually it’s “nuttiness.” The Brown Ale should make you think they had added nuts into the beer to get that flavor. Sometimes toffee, honey, and caramel notes are more apparent (but rarely this is the case). Hence, why most brewery name their Brown Ales by calling it a “Nut Brown.” Colors may range from light brown to black and even the flavors may lean towards a Porter for the darker versions. Technically, there are three types of Brown Ales, all originating from England. If this history stuff bores you, skip to the last paragraph for the review. The three types of English Brown Ale (Category 11) are: (A) Mild (B) Southern English Brown (C) Northern English Brown. The first time I drank a Mild was a homebrew made by one of the brewers at AleSmith. After tasting Matt’s Mild, I researched Milds and even made my own. Milds are probably one of the oldest session beers considering they usually range from 2.8-4.5% ABV. Despite being light flavored, they are quite malt-accented and should lack hop bitterness to emphasize the malt character. Their flavors range from caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, and/or raisin. As you can see, the Mild is a precursor to the Porter and Stout styles but with less roast.

Southern English Brown and Northern English Brown are quite similar yet so different. Obviously, geographical lines separate these styles, yet many other breweries not from England mimic both. To be more concise, Southern English Browns are darker, sweeter, and lower in gravity than the Northern versions. Sometimes considered a mini- Sweet Stout or a sweeter Mild. The Northern English Brown Is generally more drier, hop-oriented, and nuttier in character. Newcastle and Samuel Smith Nut Brown are both categorized as Northern English Brown Ales.

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale pours out brown in color with light brown highlights when held up to the light. This beer is clear but a low level of chill haze exists. The head is tight forming and slightly creamy looking with a low to moderate tan head retention. Its clarity flaws demonstrates its historical authenticity as filtered beer was more common among lagers. Bready, toffee, and honey-like flavors are exhibited through the malt and fruity ester aromas. You’ll notice as you drink more English beers that their fruity esters are quite distinguishable and to me are usually reminiscent of honey, sweet apples, and slight butter. As this beer warms, a subdued light nutty walnut and toasty malt aroma slowly arises finishing with a low level of diacetyl. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and seems to attack the tongue with a moderately high level of carbonation. Sweet maple, caramel, and toffee malt characters initially stand out but it finishes moderately dry with a low nutty finish. There is a low earthy hop flavor that is quite subtle, but the hop bitterness stands out enough to balance out the malt so that its not overly sweet. Aftertaste is slightly buttery. A very drinkable and enjoyable beer that well exemplifies its style. I feel its caramel flavors are a little strong for a Northern English Brown Ale and its “nut brown” flavors are too subtle. I can see this beer pairing really well with some barbeque especially now that its almost the season for it.

Category 11C: Northern English Brown Ale
Aroma: 10/12
Appearance: 3/3
Flavor: 17/20
Mouthfeel: 5/5
Overall: 8/10
Total: 43/50


The More You Know…About BEER: Anchor Porter

May 23, 2009

Anchor Porter

By Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, CA)

12oz. bottle

5.6% ABV

Anchor Porter

Bottle Description:

San Francisco’s famous Anchor Porter brand is made in one of the smallest and most traditional breweries in the world by the brewers of Anchor Steam Beer. Our old-fashioned porter is virtually handmade, with an exceptional respect for the ancient art of brewing. We use 100% malted barley, generous amounts of fresh, whole hops, entirely natural carbonation and a simple, natural brewing process which is like no other in the world. The deep black color, the thick, creamy head and the intensely rich flavor of the Anchor Porter, made in San Francisco since 1974, have earned this delicious and unique brew a worldwide reputation for outstanding quality. It is aesthetically pleasing and wholly superior in every respect.

This beer can be found at any BevMo! or any beer-friendly liquor store. I fortunately got mine as a gift from my friend Joey who works next to me. I believe he had received this as an extra in a trade through Ratebeer.com so I wouldn’t know how old this beer is.

Anchor Brewing Company, rescued from bankruptcy in 1965 by Fritz Maytag, great grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance company is internationally known for its original American West Coast style, the Steam Beer. This Steam Beer (also known as a California Common Beer) is often described superficially similar to an American pale or amber ale, but differs in that hop aromas/flavors are minty/woody rather than the usual American citrus hop varieties and have toasty/caramel-like malt flavors. The unique process in which this beer is fermented also contributes to its exceptional taste. Due to the lack of refrigeration during its time of creation, large open shallow fermenters were traditionally used in attempt to keep the fermenting beer as cool as possible for their lager yeasts. Lager yeasts, which operate best in temperatures 46’F-56’F (in comparison to ale yeasts which prefer 55’F-75’F), had problems fermenting properly in the San Francisco Bay area. Eventually, the lager yeast strain they were using had been selected to thrive at the cool end of normal ale fermentation temperatures thus leading to its hybrid qualities. Furthermore even after thoroughly describing a traditional American beer’s history, I won’t be reviewing Anchor Steam since I’m sure almost everyone in California has had one of these. If not, go out and buy one.

Moreover, Anchor Brewing Company also produces another original style, a precursor to the Stout, the Robust Porter. The Porter originated in England and was favored by laboring classes such as the “porter” class and other physical laborers. Brewing authors agree that the original Porters were produced with brown malt; malt dried over a wood fire at fairly high heat. These Porters were known as Brown Porters and differed from Robust Porters in that they were softer, sweeter, and more caramelly in flavor and usually had less alcohol. Very similar to a Brown Ale, but with more roast. As the popularity of the Brown Porter declined due to the rise of the Stout, the Robust Porter led the comeback for this style as it was stronger, hoppier, and roastier version and was designed as a historical throwback or American interpretation. So what’s the difference between a Stout and Porter? I’ve asked many brewers (professional and homebrewers) and still have no clear answer. Depending on where and what brewery you get your Porter, the taste can be really similar to a Stout or vary greatly. In terms of ingredients, unmalted roasted barley only exists in a Stout’s ingredients. In terms of taste, the difference varies. Yet, these days Stouts are served using nitrogen (thanks to Guinness, Beamish, and Murphy’s) instead of carbon dioxide. One brewery’s stout may taste like another brewery’s porter. The Stout evolved from attempts to capitalize on the success of London’s Porters, but reflected a fuller-bodied, roastier, drier, creamier, and usually with more alcoholic content. Still, it’s nice to see Anchor Brewing Company bringing back an underrated historical style.

Anchor Porter pours out very dark brown almost black but has slight mahogany highlights when held up to the light. Opacity is very difficult to determine with its dark color. The head color is brown with creamy bubbles and retains itself strongly. The malt aroma is dominated by toffee-like, caramel, and some dark fruit/raisin flavors. There is a light oxidation in this beer as I can smell some sherry-like notes. Hop aroma is vaguely distinguishable and is definitely not a highlight in this style. Low traces of diacetyl (buttery, popcorn-like smell) is present but is acceptable to style. After the first sip, medium-sweet caramel and toffee flavors overwhelms the palate and is mildly supported by some hop and dark malt/roast bitterness. The finish ends moderately dry and light roasted malt flavor lingers. The mouthfeel is medium-full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. A slight alcoholic warmth is noticed but not detracting from overall mouthfeel. No astringency from roasted grains is perceived in both the flavors and mouthfeel. Despite being considered a Robust Porter, Anchor Porter flavors do not emphasize roastiness but more on sweet caramel, toffee, and chocolate attributes . This may not be the best example of Anchor Porter given its slight oxidation from age but it definitely brings out more complex malt flavors you wouldn’t normally find in a fresh bottle.

Category 12B: Robust Porter

Aroma: 9/12

Appearance: 3/3

Flavor: 16/20

Mouthfeel: 5/5

Overall: 8/10

Total: 41/50

Ant


The More You Know…About BEER: Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle

May 15, 2009

Editor’s Note: Here once again is beer expert, Ant, bringing you our weekly installment of The More You Know…About BEER! This week: Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle Edition!

Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle
Higashi Nihon Sawauchi Sougoukaihatsu (Iwate, Japan)
300 mL (10.1 fl. oz.)
5% ABV

Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle

Commercial Description:
Fruity beer with rich taste made by packaging “Weizen”, the traditional beer in the South Germany made of over 50 % of wheat malt, without filtering beer yeast. Blue bottle with modern design brings out table coordinates.

I found this bottle in the beer section of Nijiya Market just down on Convoy (for you San Diegans). Its beautiful blue bottle is a definite eye catcher and I kept imagining what kind of homebrew I was going to put in it when I was done. I think the bottle was about $4-5, a little steep for an import beer that’s only 300mL. Even Hofbrau Original is under $3 and that’s a 500mL bottle. Then again, Yebisu (a premium all-malt beer produced by Sapporo) is about $4-5 for a 12oz. bottle. Yet, I couldn’t pass it up especially because the bottle didn’t even describe what style of beer it was in English and I was curious to see what this blue bottle contained. Originally, I decided to place this in the German Wezien/Weissbier category since its flavor profile matched the closest. American Wheat beers don’t have any banana/clove esters that German Wheat beers have and this beer didn’t have any citrusy orange fruitiness that Belgian Witbiers are well known for. This traditional style originated in Southern Germany and is usually considered a specialty for summertime consumption yet can be consumed year-round. At the same time, no category for international wheat beers exist in the BJCP Style Guidelines. After doing some research on their website, their commercial description confirmed its German Weizen style. I think it’s really awesome how this Japanese brewery used an uncommon style of beer to be its flagship beer especially in an era where lagers dominate the domestic brand in almost every nation that never had malt-based beer in their historical roots (Sapporo-Japan, (Editor: Sorry, no official website, so no link) Taiwan Beer-Taiwan, Tsingtao-China, Singha-Thailand, Tiger-Singapore, Quilmes-Argentina, Taurino-El Salvador, etc.). Then again, Widmer Brothers and Pyramid Brewery paved the path for flagship wheat beers in the U.S. and at the same time created new styles. Good thing? Maybe. Now for this beer.

Pale gold in color and effervescent, Ginga Kogen starts off clear until yeast sediment is poured in making this quite hazy. The head is bright white and fluffy that slowly dissipates. Traces of cinnamon colored yeast sediments in the middle of the head along with the fine bubbles suggest that this beer is bottle-conditioned (naturally carbonated). Initial sulfur volatiles permeate after being opened but fades into moderate banana-like fruity esters and mild phenolics (spicy). The hop aroma is very low but present. Light wheat aroma is apparent and sweet smelling. The mouthfeel is medium light bodied with a pleasant creaminess that makes this beer smooth going down. Banana/bubble gum and wheat flavors are prominent; a stronger clove presence would make this an ideal German Weizen. Hop bitterness carries through the malt and finishes slightly dry and semi-tart. Overall, a delicious example of a German-style Wheat beer however most of the flavors turned out low to moderate in intensity (not bad, but I was looking for a little more flavor).

Category 15A: Weizen/Weissbier

Aroma: 9/12

Appearance: 3/3

Flavor: 15/20

Mouthfeel: 4/5

Overall: 8/10

Total: 39/50

-Ant


The More You Know… about BEER: Birra Moretti

May 1, 2009

The Roaring twentySomethings’ beer expert, Ant, continues his weekly beer reviews with the second edition of The More You Know… about BEER. So now you can go out this weekend and impress your friends and co-workers with your “refined palate” and impressive knowledge of foreign alcohols.

Birra Moretti

By Heineken Italia s.p.a in Comun Nuovo (Italy)

355 mL (12 fl. oz.)

4.6% ABV

Birra Moretti

Commercial Description:

Birra Moretti is a genuine beer produced using a traditional process that has remained almost unchanged since 1859. To produce Birra Moretti, only the highest quality raw materials are used and a particular mixture of valuable hops, that gives the beer its aroma and unique fragrance, intensifying the slight bitter flavour. It is a low fermented beer that has a golden colour, the tone of which is given by the quality of malt used. The alcoholic content is 4,6% volume that make it suitable to drink at any time of the day. In fact it is a perfect accompaniment to both dinner and lunch or to drink in the evening with friends.

11.3°

The first time I had Birra Moretti was in Palermo, Sicily when my roomates Jason, Vince, and I had decided that we needed to go on vacation after a summer of working. We all found this beer to be light and refreshing and definitely different from some of the lagers we were use to. The label of Birra Moretti is marked by the famous old Italian man which I think is Moretti or someone related to the original founder Luigi Moretti. Vince and I spent many drunk nights imitating Moretti’s sophisticated expression. Even though I had first had this beer in Italy, it is definitely not a rare beer to acquire in the States. I got this bottle that I’m sampling from Trader Joe’s in UTC area. Trader Joe’s surprisingly sells beer and liquor cheaper than most places (Ralphs, Albertsons, etc.). You can even buy bottles individually or mix-and-match a six pack with no extra breakage fee. Getting back to the beer, Moretti is a Premium American Lager (which is more filling than the standard/lite versions) and its company is now owned by Heineken International.

Wondering why its an “American” lager even though its from Italy? The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program), a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills, categorized beers that are lagers and mass-produced to fall under American Lagers. At one point in history, when the Pilsner style became famous for its well-balanced, extremely clear, mild and refreshing taste, many countries tried to imitate that style. Unfortunately, United States pioneered in creating a type of pilsner with lighter qualities as well as using cheaper non-malt adjuncts. Soon, the rest of the world followed in creating a mild tasting lager that can appeal to the masses. But enough of the history and back to how the beer tastes.

Sulfury aroma dominates initially but fades into soft floral hop aroma. The low malt aroma is covered by a slight metallic aroma. This lager is pale golden yellow in color with brilliant clarity allowing us to see its high carbonation bubbling up to form the head. The head is white and foamy with a low-moderate retention. Rice adjunct like flavors and light malt character is noticed in the beginning but quickly fades away into a moderately low hop bitterness that balances the adjuncts. There is also some malty sweetness which follows with some graininess. The hop flavor is reminiscent of noble hop varieties as it is floral and spicy, but more floral in the end. The bitterness lingers into the aftertaste which leads me to believe that the water used has higher sulfate content. High sulfate content in water is known to accentuate hop bitterness.

For a strongly carbonated beer, this beer has very slight carbonic “bite” (the fizziness that stings your tongue). This beer also finishes moderately dry as I can still taste some residual sweetness. Overall, I find the hop bittering in this beer to be really unique for an imported lager despite its simplicity. Although the Premium American Lager tends to be very one-dimensional, this beer is quite enjoyable, especially with a plate of marinara spaghetti.

Category 1C: Premium American Lager

Aroma: 11/12

Appearance: 3/3

Flavor: 17/20

Mouthfeel: 5/5

Overall Impression: 8/10

Total: 44/50

– Ant


Welcome The Roaring twentySomethings’ New Sommelier: Ant

April 24, 2009

OK, OK, so maybe we don’t really have an official sommelier, but The Roaring twentySomethings is happy to welcome guest blogger Ant into our fold. Ant works for Alesmith Brewing Company, recently named Small Brewing Company of the Year at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival, and he’s working his way up the beer judging ladder on the side. Yes, there’s an official Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). He’s been homebrewing his own beer for about five 2+ years now, and I dare say he’s pretty damn good at it! So Ant will be reviewing various beers for us and posting his expert notes and thoughts on them in a segment we like to call:

The More You Know… about BEER!