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Beer #68 Tumbler

Generally fall beers drop into one of two categories; pumpkin or Oktoberfest. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico, Ca decided to mix things up a bit, and go with a brown ale. They describe it as an “Autumn Brown Ale.” The year 2010 was clearly marked on bottle. I’m not sure if this is the first year that Sierra Nevada has produced this beer or if it follows with their other seasonal beers.

Tumbler pours a clear brown color and has a slightly off-white head. The nose is pretty malty, as you would expect with this style. There are also some nice roasty notes in there that we stronger than what I had expected. The smell and taste go hand in hand. Lots of malty components followed by some robust roast. The nice thing is that there was a hop bite at the end that did not come through in the nose. The hops really sit on the tongue and they are slightly piney. I generally don’t care for piney flavored hops, but this one really fit the beer nicely.

I think you can really tell that this is a Sierra Nevada beer. The hop profiles are very similar to their other beers, just toned down a bit. There is nothing super complex but it was drinkable. I think this beer would be wonderful on a cold, windy fall day. As I said before it was a nice alternative to the normal fall beers and I hope that other breweries explore other avenues of fall beers. I’m not sure if brown ale is the perfect fit, but it was a nice change. (more…)

Beer Calendar problem

I got the “365 Bottles of Beer for the Year Page-A-Day Calendar 2010 ” for Christmas this year. I have really enjoyed it as far as offering a different type of beer and also as far as exposing me to new beers. I have run in to a few issues with it though. My biggest problem with the calendar is that they put seasonal beers in the wrong season. In January there were a few summer beers. And now that it is spring there are a few fall beers in there. Why? It doesn’t take an editing genius to decide that seasonal beers should go with the season they represent.

My only other problem with the calendar is that beers they love, I tend to dislike. In particular there are a lot of light lagers that they call “refreshing and relaxing” where I would just plainly call them poor. I am sure that it is personal preference but when you are comparing great beers (because they do have plenty in there) to beers that just don’t measure up, it takes away from the quality as a whole. Alright, I am done my little rant for today, but I am sure you can understand the frustration especially with the whole seasonal thing.

My brewpub: What kind of beer?

As I think about my brewpub more and more I have a few issue that come up in my mind. The current thing I can’t get out of my mind is what kind of beer to serve. While this is probably step number 52,561,021 and I am really on step 1.5 I am a beer guy, can I can’t help it. I also tend to get ahead of myself when I am excited about something.

My question breaks down into to parts; what kind of beer to offer and do we have set beers along with seaonals? The kinds of beer to offer doesn’t seem very tough, I enjoy all beers and I really like making different styles. I don’t want to “sellout” and make styles that are selling well, I want to make quality beers of my choosing. Of course the “typical” beers are going to be there; stouts, IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters, Ambers, etc. Yes there will be the occasional Imperial Russian Stout or something oaked or something else that is something different than what you see in a bottle.

The big question in my mind is to offer a year-round selection of beer with a few rotating specials or do we always keep a rotating selection. I’m going to go out on a limb (and I have nothing other than my own observations to support this) and say that 95% of brewpubs have a few set beers and then fill up the rest of their taps with seasonal beers or special beers. I have only ever been to one brewpub that has a new and different beer on tap each week; Bube’s Brewery. I talk about Bube’s last week, and the constantly rotating selection of beer always had me coming back.

There are a few problems with doing this though. You never really have a set cost, as your ingredients are always changing. When coming up with a budget for your brewing expenses it would be nice to have as little guess work involved as possible. I would imagine customers would also like to come back and have a certain beer when they come in. It can help build your brand and also increase repeat customers.

On the other side having a rotating selection of beers has benefits as well. While you don’t have the cost control you do with the other method, you do always have something new on tap. Releasing a new beer each week could really keep people coming back and build your brand in a different way. Speaking from a brewing stand-point you don’t get bored brewing the same thing each week. But for the people who seek consistency and have a favorite beer that they come in for, this doesn’t really work for.

Part of the decision also depends on how many taps we will actually have available to use. My plan is to start with four taps and grow into eight or so. I always want to have a “House Ale” that will been on tap no matter what. With the House Ale adding a anchor beer the other three taps will rotate. Once we are able to expand the taps I would then start have four or so year-round beers and having the other four be whatever we feel like making. I think this satisfies both groups of people who are there for the beer. We can keep things the same and different at the same time. Anyone have any different thoughts on this or any suggestions?

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…)

Beer Review #41 Winter Welcome Ale

I have a few more winter seasonal beers to get though but today’s review comes all the way from Yorkshire, England. It is Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale. I’ve had a few other Samuel Smith beers before and I have liked every single one. I think their Oatmeal Stout should be the standard of the style because it is just so perfect. Samuel Smith’s is also Yorkshire’s oldest brewery and dates back to 1758.

The beer pours a nice amber, copper color with a large fluffy head that quickly fades to a thin lace. It is perfectly clear and looks more the part of a winter beer than my last review did. The nose on the beer is full of a lot of fruity esters. In particular grape and dried fruit comes to mind. There is a bit of malt sweetness in there, but the fruit is the most prevalent smell. I didn’t get much in the way of hops on the nose though.

On the first sip, it tasted like an English pub ale with more than normal fruity esters. The fruit really comes through on the back-end of the beer. There was very limited malt flavor throughout the drink. There was also a bit of the hop bite on the end but it also finishes very crisp. The beer is extremely dry, perhaps one of the most dry beers that I have ever had. And the aftertaste is mostly biscuit and toasty flavors. It is an amazingly complex beer that really allows you to sample each layer.

This beer would be excellent for anyone who loves English ales. It isn’t hoppy at all and is packed with flavor. The flavors are not overwhelming, they are layered and a bit hidden. The more you drink it, the more things you find to taste. This ale comes in at 6% ABV. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got this beer, but I was pleasantly surprised. If you like complex beers or English ales, this one is for you. (more…)