Monday, August 13, 2007

Biers of the World... or rather the U.S. (I'll explain...)

So I got back from a trip to beautiful Rochester, NY to visit my old pal Dave. Last time I was up there, which was two years ago, my friend brought me to a store that had an incredible selection of beelz. Granted I was already several drinks into the day, so I didn't remember much other than that. Turns out this beer store that I barely rememebered was called, "Beers of the World". We pulled up in front of this beer store trapped in the center of the average American strip mall. Now based on its location alone, I was starting to think this was not the place I was thinking of. I was slightly bummed. Regardless, we took the bold leap forward through the glass door plastered with beer posters and discount ads(actually we opened the door like normal human beings... of course had it been later in the day there might've been a chance of someone leaping through the glass).

I stepped over the threshold and fell into what was a virtual wonderland for beer lovers. Beer to the left of me, and beer to the right... aisles and aisles of glorious beelz! The front of the store was dedicated to the international beer selections. Belgians were up against the right wall (facing the back of the store) mixed in with some German and Austrian selections. Down the center were more German choices, and then everything else you can think of... beers from all over Asian, Europe, Australia, South America, Africa... they truly represented the name "Beers of the World". Almost the entire left side of the store were coolers filled with singles, six packs, twelve packs and mini kegs. Hell there was even a cooler dedicated to the local brewer, Rohrbach. Absolutely stunning selection. It was overwhelming to say the least.

I decided I would stick to the American craft brewed selections. So I walked further into the long and narrow store to discover aisles and aisles of mouth-watering brews. There was so many to choose from, I was really sorry I didn't bring an extra suitcase with me. I only had room for whatever would fit in my roller luggage thing, which was already filled with my stupid clothes. Damnit!

Well I decided to grab as many different beelz as I could. I made sure to get the craft beers that are not available in Gainesville, Fla. The rest of my friends, not being beer freaks, were laughing at me as I scoured the aisles with the wide-eyed appearance of Charlie Bucket upon discovering the final Golden Ticket. Sorry Grandpa Joe, you ain't gettin' none of my beelz!

Here are the beelz I picked up at that lovely store, the same ones I treated some of my friends to taste upon arriving back in FLA:

First up was the Heinnieweisse. That's the one in the green can in the photo above. A wheat beer in a can just seemed strange to me, but upon pouring, I could see this would indeed qualify as a tasty wheat brew. A nice cloudy wheat beer appearance, a spicy and floral aroma and a decent head when it filled the glass. It had the classic wheat beer spice and a pleasant and bubbly champagne-like mouthfeel. It's a great beer to enjoy on a hot summer's day, but lacked a bit in the flavor department. It was kind of bland after tasting it a few times, but overall I think it is worth giving a try at least noce. I'm keeping it simple as far as the scoring goes on this well-traveled lot... 6.75 out 10.

Next up was Blue Star Wheat Beer from North Coast Brewing. North Coast is one of my favorite craft brewers, so I had to give their wheat offering a try. This beer was much more fruity than the Heinnieweisse, but didn't have the spiciness or bite that I enjoy. The appearance was right on with a solid unfiltered wheat beer, fit with the cloudiness and golden hue. This beer is a decent version of an American wheat brew, but for me, it just didn't have the mouthfeel and flavor I'd like to see from a quality brewery like North Coast. I give it a 6.0 out 10.

Third on the list was Brooklyn Summer Ale from the Broolyn Brewery. If you've read the other posts, you will by now know that I am a huge supporter of the Brooklyn Brewery. Garrett Oliver is a brewing genius! Time after time I truly love to sample their brews. The Summer Ale is a classic light bodied ale with a nice malt presence that is not at all overpowering. It has the pleasant citrus aroma and flavor often associated with American summer beers. I will be honest, it is not my favorite Summer beer, but all in all is a solid approach to the golden light ales that have come to wear the moniker of "summer brew" in the U.S. I'd give Brooklyn's Summer Ale a 7.0 out of 10.

Singletrack Copper Ale from Boulder Beer was next up at the tasting table. This was a delightful surprise. For some reason when I've seen ales described as "amber" or "copper" they seem to fall short in the flavor category. Not Singletrack. This beer had a beautiful copper(imagine that?) color and produced a nice tall, foamy head with decent retention. It had a soft malty aroma, and was full of flavor. This was one of the smoothest beers we sampled in the bunch. Not too hoppy, not too malty. A nice blend of the two, the way this beer was crafted to taste. Well done Boulder. It turns out we actually do have this beer available in Gainesville. So I wasted a spot in my luggage. AHH! I still enjoyed it nonetheless. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

Now on to the more interesting brews...

We begin with Hanami Ale from Smuttynose Brewing Co. They have this beer listed as a Spring seasonal on their website. It's appearance is amber with a hint of crimson due to the addition of cherry juice in the brew. I'm not a huge fan of fruity beers, but this ale was very refreshing. It didn't have much of a head on it, but other than that, it was a nice surprise to everyone that tasted it. It had a curious little bite to it with a slight cherry bitterness and aroma without any overabundant sweetness. It had more of a sour cherry flavor to it rather than usual burst from the sweet side of the fruit. Personally I think they did a great job using the sour and bitterness of the fruit in this beer, and I think those elements of that particular fruit match perfectly with a well crafted ale. A nice Spring brew indeed. 7.5 out of 10.

Then came the Hop Heads Delights...

Representing my homeland of Long Island is the Hoptical Illusion IPA from Blue Point Brewing Company. This brewery has a special place in my heart because being a kid that grew up in Long Island, I take pride in knowing there's a brewery pumping out great beers not far from where I grew up. Strangely enough, when I went to Blue Point, the Hoptical Illusion was one of the few beers I didn't get a chance to taste. Yes, I am a fool. This is a beautiful IPA filled with that hoppy goodness we all know and love, a pungent floral aroma and nice tiny touch of warming alcohol at the end of each sip. It has the bitterness, the hop character and the flavor of a top ranked IPA. This beer should make Long Islanders proud. I give it a 8.25 out 10.

Did someone say hops? How could I not pick up some of the legendary HopDevil Ale from Victory Brewing? Yeah, so I got some. I've never had this beer before, but when I brought it out, everyone in the room was stoked! Here I was expecting an explosion of hops and bitterness, only to be slapped in the face with flavor. Wow. This beer does indeed have a very upfront hop character, a sweet hop aroma, but somehow manages to combine its bitterness with a lush malt presence to create a flavor that can only be called HopDevil. I can honestly say that I've never had a beer with that sort of hop content coupled with such a unique flavor. If you are a hop head, but sometimes grow tired of the standard bitterness and aroma combo, try HopDevil. You will be delighted at the complexity of flavor that hides in that little 12oz. bottle. I love this brew.
I give it a 9 out of 10.

Next up was the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA from the Weyerbacher Brewing Company. Now this beer has intrigued me ever since I saw their 1/4 page ad in BeerAdvocate Magazine. Why you ask? Well, their use of Simcoe hops of course. We've brewed beers many times using the Simcoe hop variety, and I just love the bitterness and aroma of that high alpha acid beauty. Many times have I stuck my nose deep into the bag of Simcoe hops and taken a deep breath to soak up the green goodness into my sinus cavities. This beer did not disappoint. Knowing that Simcoe brings the bitterness, I had a feeling of what to expect. It was indeed filled with that classic Simcoe bitterness and aroma. A classic amber hue filled the glass and the beer had that stinging mouthfeel that can be associated with the heavily hopped American IPA. This was not my favorite IPA in the world, but it is a well-crafted brew to say the least. Bitter, a nice ABV and a pretty easy drinking beverage. I'd like to try more from Weyerbacher as this was a nice introduction to what they can do. I give it an 8 out 10.

The final hop lovers choice was the Stone IPA from Stone Brewing Company of San Diego, California. I've heard great things about this beer, and when I saw it on the shelf in its dark brown 22oz. bottle, I had to grab one to taste. Holy crap! Now that's what an American IPA is all about. A huge hop aroma tackles your nasal cavities right as you pour it into the glass. Great head retention and pleasing amber color. Did it have bite? Yes, but interestingly enough, the crisp bite and bitterness associated with IPAs was met with perfect malt balance. This was an IPA that had the higher ABV, the super hoppiness, but somehow managed to have a damn smooth finish. A brilliantly refreshing piece of craft beer artistry. I think it was unanimous around the room, that this was the best IPA of the bunch. I now want to try all of what Stone has to offer. I give it a 9.25 out 10.

I've decided to save the most interesting for last. The final tasting of the night was another selection from the Brooklyn Brewery. This time it was the brand new, Local 1. Wow. This beer may just be the definition of complexity and artisanal beauty. Garrett Oliver once again brings the best to the table. This is a Belgian style ale with tons of flavor. Using German malt and hops, raw sugar from Mauritius and yeast from Belgium, Mr. Oliver and friends have created a tasty beverage fit for any beer lover. Now mind you, this isn't the type of beer you're going to grab a bunch of for the cooler. This is the type of brew that you want to sit with in front of a fireplace and share with friends. It has a majestic warming effect from the strong alcohol content that would match with many a gourmet meal. And the alcohol is not overwhelming. There is still plenty of head room for the light hop aroma and fruitiness created by the Belgian yeast strain. This bottle-fermented ale is worthy of any fine dining table to replace that wine you were going to purchase at first thought. Having a dinner party and don't know what to get? Try the Broolyn Local 1, and your guests will thank you. This beer is probably the most complex brew I've tasted to date. I implore you to go to the brewery's website and watch the video about this exciting new release. I give it a 8.75 out 10.

Well I think I've written plenty for this post. I hope you enjoyed it. Go out and storm your local beer store and demand they start carrying some of the above tasty brews. You and your community deserve it. And as always, support your local brewers.