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Archive for October, 2010

Cellaring Update

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Yes, I have a beer cellar. Well, to be honest, it’s just a wine cellar with all that yucky wine scooped out and the sweet nectar of beer crammed in there instead. I’ll tell you more about the cellar itself later; today I just want to talk about what’s in the cellar. There are lots of places online where you can track how your favourite wines are maturing over time, but virtually nothing like that for beer. While I can’t promise to cover every beer known to man (although I do swear to try), I will periodically update you on what I have and how it’s doing.

That’s what the new info on the right is all about. Here’s how to interpret it:

Drink Now
Cellared ales that have peaked, and are probably getting worse. Consume them now, quick! I don’t care if you’re at work. Go home and get drunk!

In Their Prime
These are improving still, but are oh-so-tasty as well. Pull one out periodically to see how it’s maturing.

Whoa, pardner, give these time. They’re only going up.

Bragging Rights
Ales that don’t really need cellaring. I’m just listing them here because I’m a dick.

Written by chuck

October 27th, 2010 at 10:03 am

Posted in Beer and You

How to Serve Beer

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AKA You’re Serving It Too Cold, You Bloody Heathens

Not too long ago, a friend of mine was in a pub and ordered a “pint of the black” (that’s Guinness, for the uninitiated). This pint was promptly dispatched unto he in a foaming, frosted glass. Now, while it might be a bit much to expect a random pub to serve stout at the appropriate temperature (they do have to keep all the kegs in the same cold room, after all), the frosted glass is pushing it a bit far. Upon complaining, he was very huffily informed by the waitress that “Beer is served cold, sir.” He stuck with his guns and soon had his Guinness re-served in a non-frosted glass, presumably along with a free helping of saliva.

What was he on about? I mean, after all, beer is served cold, no? Sure, to some degree but, what is “cold?” As anyone who’s spent five minutes with a significant other in a room with a thermostat can attest to, the definition of “cold” is extremely subjective. To one person 70 is too cold, while to another 68 is too warm. Two of these unlucky folks will, sadly, never get along together simply because there’s no way for them to co-exist comfortably in the same space.

No way at all

It’s the same thing with beer. A light lager is quite happy at 45 while a stout is infinitely more comfortable at a relatively balmy 55. Some darker, stronger ales are even warmer, but only just south of 60. At no point should beer be served “warm,” despite what popular culture says about the British. In our above example, I don’t care who you are, no body is claiming 60 to be a happy household temperature. (Aside: some rarer brews can actually be served hot, for instance Unibroue’s very fine Quelque Chose, which I recommend with a stick of cinnamon. But those are few and far between.)

The confusion with the British comes about because they serve their ales at cellar temperature: just under 55F. While not as good as having a dedicated temperature for each type of beer, it is a bit of a shock for one used to the North American practice of “just throw it in with the lettuce.” Beer should never be kept in a normal fridge. Fridges are typically about 35F, and even a pilsner would have issues at that temperature, losing flavour and character notes. Cold is the enemy of flavour. So why do people store their beer in a spot that makes it almost certainly too cold?

Brewers of macro-beers (American Style Pilsner to us beer geeks) want their beer served cold. The colder the better. Within a degree of freezing, preferably. The reason is simple, these beers are marketed on their brand, not their content. The less content they have, the more the branding stands out. They’ve even recently produced cans and bottles that encourage the drinker to keep the beer cold, much colder than a pilsner needs to be. The problem is that drinkers of good beer see this marketing and then assume that their beer, too, must also be “cold certified.” This simple premise has probably done more to damage enjoyment of good beer than anything else over past few decades.

Seriously, fuck these guys

So now you know. Spend a bit of time and find out at what temperature your beer should be served. Many brewers of quality beer even put a recommended temperature right on the bottle. Then serve it in a glass. Any glass will do, but some are better than others. If you aren’t sure what temperature is correct, here is a very rough guide:

45F for light beers. eg pilsners, lagers, wheat ales
50F for most medium ales. eg amber ale, pale ale, light fruit ales
55F for most dark ales. eg IPA, bitter, stout, darker fruit ales
60F for barley wine. eg barley wine, you knob

Of crucial note is that white wines typically are in the 45-50F range as well, and reds 55-60F. This means that you’ve also been serving your whites too cold and your reds too warm.

Don’t worry about getting your drink to these exact values, just be aware that it might require a bit of time either in or out of the fridge prior to consumption. If you’re the hasty type, pick up one of each style above, put them in the fridge, and drink them in order. If you’re the type of alcoholic that seriously considered what I just proposed, then the time between beers will be just about right.

The best solution is, of course, to have a dedicated beer fridge that you can keep at the perfect temperature. More on that in a future post.

Written by chuck

October 20th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Harvest Fest Conclusions

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Just a quick summary of the events on Saturday, presented in order of Worst to Best Beer.

  1. Big River Gingerbread Ale
    Big River stood us up. Their promised Gingerbread Ale Beer was no where to be seen. Absent beers are the worst kind.
  2. Central City Pumpkin Ale
    Central City wound up just pouring their Pumpkin Ale from the taps at the Rail. I looked around for some tires to slash, but I suppose it makes sense they wouldn’t drive out there to not deliver a keg. This is not a terrible, or even bad, beer but laziness is only slightly better than not showing up at all.
  3. Central City Oktoberfest Ale
    Oktoberfest Ales are meant to be light, tasty, and easily quaffable. In an interesting twist on this theme, CC’s chipotle-infused offering was virtually undrinkable. I don’t hold this against them, however, as Chipotle Ales are incredibly hard to make work. Even Rogue’s bottled variety is border-line, and they’ve thrown years and piles of cash at making this a viable product.
  4. R&B Cornucopia Golden Ale
    This Mushroom Ale was… surprisingly not horrible. This ended up being a full bodied light ale with a counter-intuitively pleasant mushroom/earth finish. It’s not a finished product by far, but I think there’s potential to round this out.
  5. Granville Island Brewing Fresh Hopped ESB
    GIB’s Fresh Hopped ESB was decent, if somewhat unremarkable. The fresh hop taste I was hoping for was absent; perhaps I expected more than this beer could deliver. I also suspect I would have enjoy it more if it was just labeled a “Cask ESB.”
  6. Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale
    There was nothing limited about this ale, as it was just served out of LDB-fresh bottles. That didn’t stop it from being very tasty. Pumpkin ales range from sweet and pumpkin-y all the way over to light and spicy. On the spicy end are ales like CC’s, and on the sweet end are glasses of pie like Steamwork’s. This is absolutely like the latter. Pick up a bottle, grab some whipped cream, and have at ‘er.
  7. Phillips Grow Hop Fresh Hop Bitter
    Now here’s the fresh hopped taste I was looking for. While nothing to compare with Driftwood’s Sartori, this is still a very fine ale. By keeping it towards the lighter end of the bitter spectrum (this is a Bitter, not a Special Bitter, or an Extra Special Bitter), this beer balances excellent grain flavours with the lighter fresh hops without being too bitter.
  8. Storm Echinacea Stout
    This beer starts off tasting like a plain old great stout with nothing special about it, but slowly builds a pleasantly medicinal taste at the back of your throttle. Yes, I said “pleasantly medicinal.” No, I’m not kidding.
  9. Howe Sound Imperial Pumpkineater
    I knew something was up when this cask was left un-tapped on the counter because it “wasn’t ready yet.” It was tapped and served shortly thereafter to cheers. And they were right–it wasn’t ready. Instead it was delicious. I suspect the crew up in Squish tripped when they were adding the malt to this, because this cask had much more sugar in it than the regular version. As a result, it was noticeably sweeter and–I suspect–a bit more alcoholic.
  10. Russell Brewing Oaked/Spiced Wee Angry Scotch Ale
    Russell’s beer took the show, IMHO. This cask was absolutely delicious, and gains points as well for showing that Russell is taking good beer seriously once again. I am surprised at this, but I now have to give serious consideration to their other tall bottle ales, rather than dismissing them out of hand.

Written by chuck

October 18th, 2010 at 10:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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