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Beer Review #52 Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery in Melle/Ghent, Belgium is a beer that I have wanted to try for a long time now. It is one of those classics that every beer drinker should try. It is also nice to have a Belgian beer that comes from Belgium, as most of the Belgian beers that I have had recently come out of the good old US of A. Not that I am complaining becasue the country of origin does not really play a super important role in beer and American Craft Brewers have done a wonderful job of replicating (and in some cases improving) Belgian style beer.

This beer comes classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale according to Beer Advocate. Rate Beer calls it a Belgian Strong Ale, but in any case it is a Belgian beer and the “strong” in both of the style names, says it is really high in ABV. Like 8.5% ABV high. Delirium Tremens pours with a fluffy white head. The beer is straw in color and is cloudy/hazy but you can still see through it. On the nose you get that ever present Belgian yeast spice with some malt sweetness. There are not any hops noticeable and you can surely smell some heat.

The taste of the beer is the Belgian spice mostly. There are a few hints of banana, which was a nice flavor to complement the other spices. The malt was pretty thin. In most Belgian beers the spice is the first thing you notice, and then the flavors start to show themselves more and get fairly complex. I found this beer to be rather one note and not highly complex. After a few sips I think you will find everything the beer has to offer. Not that it is a bad thing, becasue what is there is pretty wonderful.

The mouthfeel is watery. Much more watery than what I would of expected out of a beer that comes in at 8.5%. It is also highly carbonated, which is to be expected for the style. Overall I would consider this a decent Belgian Strong Ale. Not my favorite, but very good. If the body was punched up just a bit, I think it would take it into a whole new category.

As I said before, I am a sucker for neat bottles, and this beer was no exception. The bottle is actually painted, comes corked and caged, and has a foil wrapping. The cork is synthetic which doesn’t really bother me at all. As I said before I enjoyed this beer, but it fell a little flat for me. It is something every craft beer drinker should try, but I felt that it didn’t live up to the hipe, while still being a solid beer.

What is beer made of?

This questions is actually a bit tougher to answer than what you might think. Traditionally beer was made out of countless things. Some might find that to be a surprise as most people declare that “traditional” beer can only be made with grain or malt, hops, water, and yeast. This belief really only dates back to the 1490s and officially to 1516 when Bavaria’s reigning Duke Wilhelm IV declared that the Reinheitsgebot take place over all of Bavaria. Reinheitsgebot literally means “purity law” and it was the first ever food safety law. This law actually helped Germany and the connecting areas of Bavaria become renowned for their superior quality in beer.

Beer dates back to as early as 6,000 BC and the first real proof we have dates back to 3,500 BC in Egypt. Dogfish Head currently makes a beer called Midas Touch, which I will let their website explain,

This recipe is the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine & mead; this smooth, sweet, yet dry ale will please the Chardonnay of beer drinker alike.

The beer is made with honey and saffron among other things. Essentially beer really only needs a few things to work. You have to have some type of sugar, which is usually derived from malt a.k.a barely grain. Water is necessary to get the whole ball rolling becasue the process of making beer involves soaking the grain in hot water (140-160 degrees Fahrenheit) for a set amount of time. While the grain is soaking in the hot water enzymes in the grain are activating and turning the starches stored in the grain into sugar. On a side note beer is about 90% water on average. Sugar is essential becasue the next ingredient needs it to live.

The sugar is eaten by yeasts that have been specially cultured for the beer making process. The yeast eat the sugar and turn it into three things; carbon dioxide, heat, and alcohol. If you wanted to, you could really stop here as you technically have beer at this point. The problem is that the yeast take the time to turn the sugar into alcohol and other microorganisms also like beer. Once the yeast have enough time to turn sugar to alcohol, those microorganisms cannot survive in an environment with alcohol. To give the yeast enough time to do thins, hops has been the ingredient of choice to help preserve the beer. It also helps it have a longer shelf live and helps balance the taste of the malt in the beer. The malt is sweet and the hops are bitter, together you have something that tastes wonderful.

So the German’s Reinheitsgebot does have all of its bases covered for making beer. However there are a lot of other things that can go into a beer to add to it. Think of the Reinheitsgebot in terms of pancakes. It allows you to put pancake mix, water, milk, and syrup into your pancakes. Sure you can have wonderful tasting pancakes with those ingredients but what happens if you want some whipped cream or chocolate or strawberries. I think you get where I am going here.

In the United States the Reinheitsgebot has really never been something that has been followed. During the Colonial times spruce branches were a common ingredient in beer. The were mostly used as a substitute for hops but added a distinct flavor of their own. Today breweries are producing beers with all kinds of extra ingredients in them. Fruit beers, spiced beer, etc are all mass produced and provide something new and different. Our friend from the pancake ingredient list, syrup, is also used in many different beers. So the question of what is beer made of doesn’t really have a true answer. I suppose that all/most beers have the following things in common; malt, hops, yeast, and water. After that it is really anyone’s guess.

Beer Review #42 Winter Lager

When I first got into craft beer, Sam Adams was one of the breweries that helped bridge the gap. Sam Adams a.k.a. Boston Beer Company does a great job at making flavorful beer that is acceptable the the majority of beer drinkers out there. They may not make everything that a seasoned craft beer drinker would like, but they do a great job of opening people up to new styles and flavors.

Winter Lager was always one of my favorites so when I saw it in the store I grabbed it. It pours a nice amber, ruby color and it is perfectly clear. There is also a fluffy off-white head. The nose on the beer is toasty, malty, and some slightly fruity esters in there. The fruity part is slightly surprising being that it is a lager and generally, lagers are cleaner tasting than ales and they generally do not produce a lot of esters either.

The taste is nice an malty. The malt sweetness is upfront with toasty and bready flavors throughout. There is a slight hop on the back-end but it is not overwhelming in the slightest. Sam Adams Winter Lager comes in at 5.80% ABV as well. This is a super drinkable beer that I think most would enjoy. It is light-medium in body and has a great aftertaste. I think this is a decent introduction to seasonal beers and fits well into the winter seasonal “style.” I still want something darker and richer for winter time, but, being that this is a mass produced beer on a much larger scale than I usually talk about, I will let it slide. (more…)

What will I be drinking for Inauguration?

Today brings a new president to the American people in Barack Obama. The country seems to be pumped for a change and it looks like the Inauguration is going to be an event in and of itself. So with all of this hype, I’ve been trying to pick out what beer I would enjoy best.

I’ve been doing some researching, and Obama is a beer drinker! There have been numberous news stories of him stopping in at local bars on the campaign trail and I think that’s pretty cool. So what does Obama order when he goes out, according to this story, it was Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). I said the guy was a beer drinker, not a good beer drinker.

So that leads me to my choice, and I’ve narrowed it down to two beers. The first is Fat Tire from the New Belgium Brewing Company. I have two reason behind this choice, one becasue the brewery’s name have New in it and the second is becasue it is a damn good beer.

My second choice is Obama’s favorite, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’m really not a big fan of the stuff, but it’s the man’s day, I might as well drink his beer. PBR might also go down a bit easier if you play the Barack Obama Drinking Game (you can see the rules below). What are you drinking on Inauguration Day?

Barack Obama Drinking Game

Take a drink everything Obama does or says one of the following things:

  • Says hope
  • Says change
  • Talks about a hatchet or scalpel
  • Anything about war
  • Mentions Michell Obama
  • Uses the word partisan or bi-partisan
  • Complements Joe Biden
  • and finally, if you really want to get crazy, drink every time he takes a long pause or uses slow but direct hand motions