Sunday, April 21, 2013

Craft Beer Responds to Boston Marathon Tragedy

The city of Boston has certainly demonstrated an attitude of unity and resilience since the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon. From the parade-like showing of gratitude for law enforcement in Watertown following the apprehension of the second suspect, to the ceremony at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, the city has stood together in the face of adversity. As Red Sox slugger David Ortiz so aptly put it, "This is our f---ing city, and nobody's going to dictate our freedom." Even the FCC couldn't disagree.


Even Boston-area craft brewers are rising to the occasion. Jack's Abby, located in Framingham, MA and brewer of beers like Hoponius Union (a delicious India-style pale lager in case you were wondering), held a benefit for the victims of the bombing on April 17 at Tavern Framingham. Despite having less than 24 hours to arrange the event, an amazing 25 breweries donated beer and the event raised over $8,800. Gary Dzen (99 bottles, reported that participating breweries included Ides & Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, Ipswich Ale Brewery, Tree House Brewing Co., LLC, Clown Shoes Beer, Allagash Brewing, Tuckerman Brewing, Atlantic Brewing, John Harvard's, Cape Ann Brewing, Night Shift Brewing, Oxbow Brewing. Maine Beer Company, Left Hand Brewing, Battle Road Brewing, and Brash Brewing. All monies were donated to the recently created One Fund Boston. You can make your own donation here.

Boston Beer Company, brewer of Sam Adams Boston Lager and long-time sponsor of the Boston Marathon, has also announced that it will support the victims of the bombing by donating a portion of the profits from its new marathon-inspired beer, 26.2. The brewery will also be collecting donations for the victims during its brewery tours this month.


Over on the other side of town, Harpoon Brewery will be donating 100% of the beer and pretzel sales from its next three "Brewed for Boston" Nights. The Nights take place on Tuesdays from 6 to 9 PM at the brewery's recently renovated beer hall. 

Such acts of kindness and selflessness make me even more proud to support craft beer. Cheers!

Friday, April 19, 2013

QQ's Three Maxims of Beer Advocacy

As I recently authored my final craft beer article for The Docket (the official newspaper of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law), I have decided to begin writing blog posts again. Today, I offer you three maxims that every beer drinker should live by. You don't have to be a beer geek to follow these suggestions. You just have to be someone who wants to better appreciate whatever beer you're drinking.

1. Drink a variety of beer. This is the number one way to build your appreciation for craft beer. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say “I hate dark beer. I don’t know how people can drink it.” But upon further questioning, I discover that the only dark beer they have ever tried is Guinness. Not that there is anything wrong with Guinness, but there are many other “dark” beers out there. Try a brown ale, or an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, or a finely crafted Dunkel lager from Germany. Moral of the story: Keep an open mind and always be willing to try new things. When the bartender asks if you want another, order something new instead of the same beer you just had. Pretty soon you’ll discover that you enjoy all sorts of beers! In a similar vein, keep in mind that your tastes will change over time as your try a wider variety of beers, so even if you try something once and don’t like it, don’t be afraid to give it another try later down the road.

2. Put your beer in a glass and use your sense of smell. Most of your sense of taste comes from your sense of smell. The small openings on bottles and cans make it difficult to smell the beer and thus interfere with your ability to fully taste the beer. It actually does make a difference—try a side-by-side comparison some time. You will definitely notice all the subtleties of the beer’s flavor with much greater ease when it is in a glass and you can smell it properly. The agitation of the beer that occurs when you pour it into the glass also helps release aromatics, thus making it easier to smell and taste the beer. Swirling beer in the glass (just like you would with wine) also helps bring the brew’s aromas to your nose. Make a point of asking for a glass whenever you drink a craft beer and soon you’ll be appreciating your beer even more.

3. Be a Beer Advocate, not a beer snob. Educate, don’t berate. Everyone is entitled to their personal tastes and opinions. Your buddy wants to drink a Bud? Fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even I admit that macro lagers have their place. They’re cheap, go down easy, and are quite refreshing on a hot day. But most of the time when I reach for a beer, I want something that’s more than just easy-drinking refreshment. I want something I can appreciate—something with nuances of flavor that mass-produced adjunct lagers simply can’t achieve. To make an analogy: there’s nothing wrong with a McDonald’s quarter pounder, but I’d rather have a Lola Burger. This said, never act like your beer is superior to someone else’s or that you’re superior because you’re drinking craft beer. And never make someone feel stupid for choosing to drink non-craft beers. These are two surefire ways to make someone not drink craft beer. Instead, offer education. When asked why you ordered a Dogfish 60-Minute IPA instead of a Bud, explain yourself. Explain how craft brewers put a lot more time and effort into creating their beers and how you feel that is reflected in the flavor of the final product. Also be sure to explain why you should drink your beer out of a glass, rather than a can or bottle. A craft beer lover is not born overnight. But by offering beer advocacy, rather than beer snobbery, you will ultimately win over many converts.

A version of this article appeared in The Docket, Vol. 25, Issue 20 (April 15, 2013).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review 200!

Last Friday I head out to The Brew Kettle in Strongsville to celebrate both the start of Cleveland Beer Week and to review my 200th beer for Beer Advocate. This was my third visit toTthe Brew Kettle and each visit thus far has been great. They have 30 beers on tap, all of which are always high quality craft offerings. At least five of the taps are also dedicated to TBK's homemade brews and I have yet to taste one that hasn't been well done. I started off with their pumpkin ale on this visit and was not disappointed. The brew's description says this one is "just right" and I have to agree. The balance between spice and malt flavor is right on, with just a hint of bitterness in the finish. It is one of the better pumpkin ales I have had so far this season. The highlight of the night, however, came later in the night when the bar tapped a keg of TBK's Bourbon Barrel Aged Tunguska Imperial Stout. My full review of this delicious brew can been seen below. I should also note that TBK makes its own barbecue and has a smokehouse on premise. The menu highlights include a very well done chili and barbecue spaghetti, which substitutes pulled pork and barbecue sauce of the meatballs and tomato sauce. The pulled pork is lean and incredibly tender and mixes well with the texture of the spaghetti noodles. The Brew Kettle is definitely one of the better beer bars in the Cleveland area and is well worth a visit if you're in town.

My 200th review! 

I had the pleasure of tasting this beer on tap at The Brew Kettle on the first night of Cleveland Beer Week 2010. 

A: Came to my table in a snifter. Black as night with a thin tan head and some foamy lacing slowly sliding down the glass. 4.5

S: The the barrel aging really stands out. Lots of sweet vanilla, some dark fruit and coco nibs along with underlying suggestions of bourbon and oak. 4.5

T: Lots of chocolate, coco nibs, and raisin up front. The mid-palate transitions to strong suggestions of bourbon and oak. The sweet bourbon and booze flavor is just a touch overpowering, but the flavor is still very good overall. The tastes also balanced out a little more as it warmed. 4

M: Full, chewy, and a little sticky. Significant alcohol warming in the finish. 4

D: A great BBA stout overall - especially for a smallish operation like TBK. The flavor was just a touch unbalanced, but nothing to get really get upset about. And at $3.75/glass who can really complain? Probably the best price on a BBA beer I have ever seen.4

Overall: A-, 4.2

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Styles Part III – Lagers

Welcome back my fellow beer drinking law students! I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about ales; hopefully you learned something new. This week we will take a look at the primary styles that fall under the second broad category of beer: lagers! Once again, the following list is ordered in what I believe to be the best progression to try these styles in. Remember that your palate will evolve over time, so do not write a style off because you try it once and dislike it. I could hardly stand some of my current favorite styles when I first tried them years ago!

Oktoberfest: ‘Tis the season for these medium to full bodied brews! Ranging from light brown to a darker copper in color, Oktoberfest style lagers a called Märzen (March) beers in Germany because they were typically brewed in March before it became too warm to make lagers. They were then stored in cellars until late-September, which marks the start of Oktoberfest in Munich. These beers are characterized by sweet roasted malts and notes of caramel. Hops add a minimal amount of bitterness in the finish. Popular representations include Sam Adams Oktoberfest and Great Lakes Oktoberfest. The German breweries of Pauliner, Ayinger, and Spatan also make traditional examples of the style.

Vienna Lager: These beers tend to be a little darker than the average Oktoberfest. Lightly toasted malts play a large role in the flavor and are accompanied by hints of candy sweetness. Hops provide a touch of fragrance to the beer’s aroma and also contribute some bitterness in the flavor’s finish. Sam Adams Boston Lager and Great Lakes Elliot Ness are good examples of this style.

Dortmunder Export: This is a fairly uncommon style in the United States. I only included it on this list because Great Lakes Brewing Company happens to make one of the few U.S. made representations of the style. These beers tend to be light to medium in body and pour a nice golden color. The aroma tends to center around hints of citrus and dried flowers, with fresh bread in the background. The flavors are more of the same, with a crisp, refreshing finish.

Bock: Bocks tend to have the fullest bodies in the lager family. They run in color from deep mahogany to near black and tend to be dominated by sweet malt flavors. Bocks cover a wide range of flavors, including caramel, dark fruit (grapes, plums, figs, etc), chocolate, and coffee. Hops are usually present only in quantities large enough to provide some balance to the wide array of sweet malt flavors. Sam Adams Winter Lager is probably the most well known example of a bock style beer in the United States. Anchor Brewing Company also makes a good representation of the style.

Double Bock: Double bocks are similar to regular bocks, except that they are made with twice the amount of malt found in a typical bock. This leads both stronger flavors and a more potent alcohol by volume. Germans sometimes bill Double Bocks as “breakfast in a bottle.” Notable representations include Ayinger Celebrator, Pauliner Salvator, Bell’s Consecrator and Sam Adams Double Bock. 

Pilsner: In many ways pilsners are the simplest of the lagers. They tend to be light in body and are made with fewer ingredients than almost any other beer. Hops tend to play a prominent role in their flavors, contributing notes of both citrus and herbs. The prominent role of hops in these beers also results in a zesty, bitter finish. Pilsner Urquel, Victory Prima Pils, and Sam Adams Noble Pils are well known pilsners.

Respect Beer!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Night!

I had a couple of interesting beer experiences this weekend. First, I went to the Winking Lizard in Coventry this past Friday to check out the new "glass of the month" special. This one was a real winner - a custom 1 liter winking lizard mug full of Spaten Oktoberfest for $9.25. A great deal if you ask me. Spaten's Oktoberfest pours a deep amber color, with notes of pleasant toasted malt and some bitterness in the finish. Spaten is one of only six German breweries authorized to sell beer at the Oktoberfest celebration in Munich each year. On a personal note, the spicy barbecue wings at the Winking Lizard are fantastic - I could eat them all night!

Being the first weekend of October, I decided it was time to start enjoying one of my favorite vegetables: Pumpkin! So this evening (Saturday) I picked up a bottle of Hoppin' Frog Double Pumpkin Ale and ingredients for pumpkin pie. The Double Pumpkin was a bit of a let down to be honest (for my full review see here). Perhaps my expectations were set too high after it won gold at Great American Beer Festival, but nothing about it really stood out for me. First impressions were not good - it poured with almost no head and looked flat (though it ended up being almost over-carbonated). The smell was better, featuring a good dose of cinnamon and the other typical pumpkin pie spices. The flavor was about average I would say - definitely some pumpkin and spice flavor, mixed with some generic sweet malt. In my opinion, however, a good pumpkin ale either needs to be in your face with delicious pumpkin pie flavor (ala Pumking) or achieve a good balance between spice and the more traditional beer elements - roasted malts and some subtle hop bitterness. This one really did neither - it was a little too sweet and unbalanced for my liking. I will admit by bias, however: I do not see how any pumpkin ale not named Southern Tier Pumking could ever win gold.

 Despite being a bit of a let down, I still enjoyed sipping on the Double Pumpkin over the course of the evening and it paired well with the pumpkin pie I baked. Come Thanksgiving time I'll write a similar post with my thoughts on how Pumking pairs with my dad's pumpkin pie. Happy October!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Styles Part II - Ales

This article first appeared in The Docket, the official newspaper of Case Western Reserve University School of Law. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of the main two types of beer (ale and lager), let us start exploring each style’s subcategories in greater detail. This week we’ll look at ales. If you’re new to craft beer I would recommend starting with styles towards the top of the list before delving further down. In some cases it took me many months before I could even palate some of the beers towards the bottom of the list. But everyone is different; do some experimenting and see what you like!

Wheat beer: Wheat beers are typically light and refreshing, with very little hop bitterness and crisp notes of citrus in both the nose and flavor. The strains of Belgian yeast used in most wheat beers also lend notes of banana and at times even faint suggestions of bubblegum to the taste. Blue Moon is a well known an example of wheat beer, but I would recommend you try Great Lakes Holy Moses, Spaten Franziskaner, or Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier.

Brown ale: Heavier and darker than wheat beers, brown ales are of English origin and range in flavor from hints of dark fruit to earthy and nutty. Some American versions also include suggestions of coffee. Brown ales are another good brew for newcomers to the craft beer scene because hop bitterness remains largely in the background. Newcastle Brown Ale is probably the most famous brown ale, but I would also recommend Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown or Bell’s Best Brown.

Stout: Stouts are some of the darkest beers available and rely on large doses of malt for the majority of their body and flavor. Hops play a varying role in stouts, but typically serve as a bittering agent to provide balance to the sweeter malt flavors. You will find most stouts to have roasty characters, with suggestions of coffee and dark chocolate playing prominent roles. Guinness is a good stout to begin with, but I also recommend trying Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout, Rogue Chocolate Stout, and Sierra Nevada Stout.

Pale Ale: The first of the truly hop forward beers on this list. Most pale ales range in aroma from earthy to sweet and slightly floral. Malt provides a backbone of sweetness to their flavors, but hops play a much more prominent role, lending hints of citrus to the taste and creating a characteristically bitter finish. I find new craft beer drinkers sometimes have a hard time adjusting to the hop bitterness of pale ales and India pale ales. With time and experience your palate will adjust and you will come to appreciate the complexities of these styles. Popular pale ales include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Great Lakes Burning River.

Russian Imperial Stout: While similar in some respects to normal stouts, RIS’s are packed with much more flavor, complexity, and alcohol (the average RIS is in the 8-9% abv range). Aromas and flavors of espresso, mocha, dark chocolate, vanilla, dark fruit and many others are all possibilities for beers of the RIS family. Due to their complexity and variety of flavors, RIS’s tend to be one of Beer Nerds’ favorite styles. Notable brands include Stone RIS, Old Rasputin, and Great Lakes Blackout Stout.

India Pale Ale: The hoppiest beers around, IPAs are notoriously pungent and bitter. These beers draw you in with surprisingly inviting aromas of flowers, pine, and even grapefruit. While some of these elements come through in the flavor as well, hop bitterness really dominates the overall flavor profile. Drinking a few IPAs is a sure way to ruin your palate for the rest of the evening. Some of my personal favorites include Dogfish Head 60 Minute, Bell’s Two Hearted, and Great Lakes Commodore Perry.

Next week we’ll discuss different styles of lager. Until then, go enjoy some craft beer (after you’re done with you’re reading for the night of course)!

Respect Beer! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Beer Styles Part 1 – Ales and Lagers

This article first appeared in The Docket, the official newspaper of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

In order to fully appreciate the diverse range of beer styles, one must first understand the fundamental differences between ale and lager. Ale and lager are the two broadest beer categories and every style of beer falls under the umbrella of one or the other. (Most of the following information in this article comes from either my own personal knowledge or and, both well respected craft beer websites that are worth checking out).

The main difference between ale and lager is the kind of yeast used in making them. Ales use yeast that rises to the top of the fermenting vessel and performs best at temperatures around 70 degrees. Conversely, lagers use a bottom fermenting yeast that requires temperatures between 34 and 40 degrees. Ale yeasts (there are many different kinds) tend to give-off byproducts that lead to a fruity and robust character. Alternatively, the cool environment required by lager yeasts tends to produce slightly more subdued flavors and lends itself to a crisper tasting final product.

Typical ale styles include: Brown Ale, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale (IPA), Wheat Beer/Heffeweizen, Porter, Stout, Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) and virtually all Belgian-style beers.

Typical lager styles include: Vienna Lager, Oktoberfest/Marzen, Bock, Double Bock, Dortmunder Export, and Pilsner. Please note that while many American “lite” beers bill themselves as pilsners, they are quite different from the pilsners made in the small German, Czechoslovakian, and American craft breweries.

Sticking with the fine wine example I used last week, the late famous beer expert, Michael Jackson (not to be confused with the late pop-singer), once called ales the “red wines” of beer and lagers the “white wines.” Generally speaking, ales tend to be more complex and flavorful than their slightly simpler and more refreshing lager counterparts.

Beer of the week!
For the second week in a row I’ll be reviewing a lager. This time it will be the widely available Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Many people credit Sam Adams with starting the American craft beer movement in the mid to late 1980’s. Though Sam Adams is by far the largest producer of craft beer in the United States, they still encompass less than 1% of the entire beer market share in the U.S. This article’s picture if of myself and David Fleischer with Sam Adams founder Jim Koch at the 2010 Beer Advocate Extreme Beer Festival.

Boston Lager pours a dull orange color with hints of brown and amber at its edges. The aroma is simple, yet inviting, with pleasant hints of caramel and flowers, mixed with a more generic malt sweetness in the background. The taste is much of the same, with hints of grain and bread added to the elements of the aroma. The finish is just slightly bitter and adds a nice balance to the sweeter flavors. The drink is rounded out by a medium body with a subtle carbonation. Overall, Boston Lager is a simple, yet delicious Vienna Style lager (Vienna refers to the type of malt used in making the beer). Perhaps the best thing about this beer is that its available almost everywhere, even bars that sell strictly American macro products. Pair this with a lightly seasoned pork chop or German bratwurst.  

If you enjoy Boston Lager, you should also try: Great Lakes Elliot Ness or any Oktoberfest style lager

Respect Beer!