Thursday, June 1, 2017

TBS Official Beer of Summer 2017

Have you ever tried a beer that you were sure that you were not going to like, but when you tasted the beer you were blown away by how much you enjoyed it?  On a recent jaunt to the beaches we were offered a rather dismal, but not surprising, array of crappy corporate beers .... and TropiCannon, by Heavy Seas Brewing.

In the first part of the surprise, Heavy Seas Brewing from Baltimore, Maryland, is one of those brewers who makes beers that usually don't excite us.  When given a choice of one of their beers vs. other beers, we almost always choose 'other' and while the beers are not usually bad, they usually aren't terribly impressive either. Part 2 of the equation is that we don't particularly like beers with fruit, and while we are not reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law) purists, we feel that fruit is better used in sissy drinks with umbrellas. 

That is why we are surprised that we liked this beer so much. TropiCannon Citrus IPA (7.25% ABV) is a variation of their flagship Loose Cannon IPA, but with loooooots more citrus.  In this version they added blood orange, grapefruit, mango and lemon flavor, and reduced the piney flavor found in the Loose Cannon, to create a wonderfully refreshing IPA that was so delightful that we now can't get enough of it and actually seek it out. 

While the ABV is too high for this to be a true session beer, we found it very easy to drink several at a time, staggering away from the bar with a satisfied smile.  This is why we have chosen the TropiCannon Citrus IPA as our official Beer of Summer.  Cheers, Bon

Monday, December 12, 2016

Travelling in the Philippines

Do you have a hobby? Perhaps one that involves enjoying beer?  Obviously you are part of the beer culture, else you wouldn't be wasting your time reading this drivel.  We actually have 2 hobbies, that we manage to combine into one.  Obviously beer is the first, but we also have a love for travel, so as often as we can, we tie them together into a rolling drink-a-thon. This time we decided to try somewhere quite unique, a bit risky, a bit .... raw.
This is not the first time that we have visited a third world country, in fact there have been several, but none quite so third worldish as this.  As with many countries once ruled by the Spanish, there is a huge gap between the haves and the have nots.  Manila is a huge city of 13 million people with hordes of desperately poor people living in the shadows of shiny glass high-rises.  Even as poor as they are, they are always quite respectful, which actually is a bit disconcerting.  There is a reverse racism that we noticed after several days which took aback a bit.  "Hello, sir", "good morning, sir", will come at you from almost everyone that you meet, but they don't speak that way to each other, only to people who are obviously westerners.  Should you be one of those deluded souls who believe in white race superiority, this is the place for you as that they fall all over each other to serve you.  There are beggars, to be sure, any city with this much poverty has many, but just smile and wave while saying nothing, and walk on you way, they will leave you alone.  The child beggars are a bit more aggressive and will follow you for a few blocks with their hands out, but just keep your eyes straight ahead and keep walking.  In a country as desperately poor as this, you are a target, so leave your bright and shiny things at home (i.e. jewelry, expensive watches, etc), dress modestly and do not wave cash around.  Most people speak at least some English, and should that fail, try a bit of Spanish, after all, the Spanish ruled here for several centuries.  Money is all counted in Spanish as well.

Your first contact with hustlers will come as you leave the airport.  There will be an army of hawkers trying to convince you that the $1,800.00 Peso (about $36.00) flat rate cab is the way to go with traffic as bad as it is in Manila, and man, it is bad, stunningly bad.  However, a Taxi is also stunningly cheap, and you a typical cab ride, even in really slow traffic, will cost you less than $500.00 Pesos.  Don't bother trying to find a bus or the subway, there aren't any, just take a cab and be happy. Other than a cab, the only public transportation is the ubiquitous Jeepney.  These diesel exhaust spewing monsters are all privately owned, all competing for the same riders, all on the same routes which are printed on the sides of the vehicle. In theory the amount charged for the ride is figured by distance. You get in and pass the money forward, but for the life of me I never mastered the pricing and am quite sure that I was royally screwed.  To be completely honest, with an exchange rate of about 50:1, a royal screwing amounts to only a couple of bucks.
If you get tired of dealing with the crush of humanity or choking on the filthy air, there are options for you to get away and into a world more familiar to the average boring American.  The shopping malls in Manila are awe inspiring. These are massive temples dedicated to the gods of commerce are staffed with security guards stationed at the entrances to keep out the poor and smelly people.  One of the examples of reverse racism that you may come across is that all Filipinos will be searched as they enter, but as a westerner you will most likely get a pass.  Now I pride myself in my ability to finding my way around almost anywhere without getting lost, but the malls in Manila are maddeningly convoluted and HUGE.  The Robinson's Place Mall has everything that a homesick tourist needs to make them feel safe, secure and boring.  It is also where those without an adventurous palate can find solace with the 30+ restaurants, most with familiar choices (TGIFridays, anyone?). The Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the world should you need exercise in a place with slightly cleaner air.


"WHAT ABOUT THE BEER!"  
To be sure, we have not really visited a country that doesn't have a thriving underground beer scene ... until now.  Craft beer is a luxury that a country full of desperately poor can ill afford.  San Miguel is by far the largest brewer and has little competition.  Why?  Because it is frigging cheap, that's why.  A bottle of San Miguel will set you back about a buck.  The San Miguel Cerveza Negra (5% ABV) is a quite serviceable dark lager that will do in a crunch, but the craft breweries were really scarce, in fact, we only found one simply because we were lost and took the wrong exit from the Robinson's Place Mall (like I said, confusing), and there it was. It is true that you can find a few craft brews around town in the bottle, but our goal was to find a brewery where we could sit and chat about beer with locals.  


The Tap Station on Adriatico Street was honestly the only place that we could find within several miles of our hotel serving craft beers, and luckily, it was quite fine for our needs.  Their own beers, CraftRevolt Brewing, are color coded on the board on the board by price along with a few guest beers.  You will find most of their beers are session-able brews with modest alcohol content, but with familiar flavors and at reasonable prices.

The bottled craft beers that we tried were quite sporadic in quality.  The Tarsier Wheat Beer (4.6% ABV) made by Crazy Carabao Brewing had the funky armpit foulness that you get from unclean brewing equipment, or perhaps unwashed kegs.   Brew Kettle Belgian style Wit Bier (5.3% ABV) by the Asian Brewery, Makati, Philippines, is as good as any American knockoff of a Belgian classic.  In our not so humble opinion, the best craft brewer that we found was Joe's Brew out of Manilla. The Fish Rider Pale Ale (5% ABV) has a super drinkable balance between hops and malts.

We did get to spend a bit of time on the island of Boracay, about an hour's flight south of Manila.  Here you will not find the masses of desperately poor .... poor to be sure, just not desperately poor.  You will still find the hawkers trying to sell you anything that your drunken ass will buy, but the beggars are not so prevalent.  You will see gross, fat westerners with their tiny Filipino lovers .... male or female, but try not to judge, they need money and gross, fat westerners have it to give.  You will also see gloriously blue, clear water and swaying palm trees.  Hotels range from cheap dives to shiny new resorts
with the north end of the strip more of the latter .... a bit to sanitized for our tastes.  There is no sea wall and not concrete sidewalk here, hotels and restaurants are located directly on the beach where you can stroll along underneath the shade of the coconut palms.  Our recommendation to find a good selection of craft beers in the Red Coconut hotel bar and decently priced fruity drinks with umbrellas.  For dining you must try to find the Hobbit House restaurant where all of the staff are little people, and the food is actually quite good.  Little people.



We will give you one last piece of advice that should satisfy all of your cravings for finding good beer in the Philippines, consider, if you will, that the exchange rate is about 50 Pesos to the Dollar .... do the math.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain

Cheers, Bon





Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 Thanksgiving Beer Recommendations


Do you ever get stuck in a rut that you just can't (or won't) escape from? For instance, normally, our 'go to' beer for Thanksgiving is the venerable, magnificent, Saison DuPont. We drink this every year, and have for years on end. Why? Because it pairs so very well with almost every dish in the Thanksgiving feast.
This year, though, we have decided to change things up .... a bit. For this year's debauchery, we are going to recommended a few similar beers for the snobs to try, along with us, they are:
1. Straffe Hendrik Wild Belgian Tripel Ale - Brewed by Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan, Brugges, Belgium, it is funky, earthy and ... wild. This should be the perfect accompaniment to the bird
2. Dogfish Head Biere de Provence Saison - Brewed with lavender, marjoram and bay leaves it should pair well with dressing.
3. Dogfish Head Saison du Buff - Brewed with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme making it a perfect pairing for almost everything on your plate. Now try getting that song out of your head.
-Cheers, Bon

Monday, November 21, 2016

Identifying Contaminated or Infected Beer

You have almost certainly heard us bitching about infected or contaminated beers.  There are many ways to contaminate a batch of beer, each of which produces it's own distinct flavor or smell.  This article from the November issue of Draft Magazine gives you a great insight on what is funking up your beer. Cheers, Bon
beer off flavors
As beloved as beer may be, the beverage also has many enemies. Outside forces like oxygen, sunlight and time do their best to ruin beer, but even compounds found in and on malt, hops, water and yeast—the very ingredients that make beer delicious—can act as spoilers. With all the things that can go awry when making a beer, it’s a small miracle that most of them make it to the shelf free of flaws. Every now and then, however, you do run into a stinker, and it’s important to know exactly what caused the offending flavor. Here’s a baker’s dozen of those we encounter most often.
Acetaldehyde
Tastes like: green apples, fresh cut grass, cucumbers
Caused by: yeast. Acetaldehyde is naturally produced in the early stages of fermentation, but is usually converted into ethanol (AKA sweet, sweet booze) later on. Too much of the green apple flavor in a beer usually means the brewer used unhealthy or inactive yeast, fermented at too-low temperatures, or packaged the beer before the yeast was finished fermenting. (Fun fact: acetaldehyde is also one of the compounds produced by our bodies when we digest alcohol. Certain groups of people have a hard time breaking the compound down further, so it accumulates—this is why some people will become flushed in the face after drinking.)
Astringency
Tastes like: Not a taste so much as a sensation of dryness on the tongue
Caused by: polyphenols in malt, hops or spices. Most commonly it’s the result of poorly managed sparging—the brewing stage during which a brewer rinses malt with water to extract any residual sugar. Sparge too long or at too high a temperature and polyphenols from the grain husks will end up in the finished beer, making it astringent. An overzealous addition of spices—such as those commonly used in pumpkin ales and winter warmers—can also contribute some astringency.
Autolysed Yeast
Tastes like: meat, sulfur, vegemite, barbecue potato chips
Caused by: dead yeast. Yeast are hardy little critters, but they’re not immortal; they do eventually die, and when they do, they basically burst open (the word autolysis literally means “self-destruction”) and release their innards into the beer. This has a number of effects: It reduces the head on a beer, accelerates the creation of haze, and can even restart fermentation, resulting in overcarbonation. But the largest effect is in the flavor and aroma: The meaty bouquet of autolyzed yeast is so intense that it’s often used to add flavor to soups and barbecue potato chips. Yeast autolysis usually only occurs in very old bottles or cans, so make sure the beer you’re buying is fresh.
Bromophenol
Tastes like: ink, an old TV, an electric fire
Caused by: contamination of brewing ingredients via packaging materials. Malt or hops packaged in recycled paper or cardboard or inside material treated with fire retardant will sometimes impart this off-flavor to a finished beer.
Butyric Acid
Tastes like: parmesan cheese, rancid butter, vomit
Caused by: bacterial infection, usually by a bug called Clostridium. The offending microorganism is sometimes found in glucose and cane sugar syrups used in brewing, but can also contaminate a beer during the long, warm stand of a sour mash, which is why butyric acid is commonly encountered in poorly made Berliner weisses.
Chlorophenol
Tastes like: duct tape, antiseptic, Band Aids, plastic
Caused by: chlorinated water or chlorine-based santizers. Brewers and homebrewers who use untreated tap water commonly run into this off-flavor, which is formed through reactions between alcohol and chlorine.
Diacetyl
Tastes like: butter, butterscotch, buttermilk
Caused by: yeast. Dactyl is a natural byproduct of fermentation, usually created by yeast in the early stages but later reabsorbed. It can also be a sign of bacterial contamination in draft beer lines. The flavor of diacetyl is so buttery it’s also used to flavor popcorn, and though unpleasant in most beers, it is appropriate in some English-style ales.
Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS)
Tastes like: cooked corn, overcooked broccoli, dirty vegetable oil
Caused by: a compound in malted barley that’s transformed by heat. DMS usually develops during the boiling stage of the brewing process; it’s formed when temperatures reach 140 degrees but is driven off with a vigorous boil. This is part of why brewers strive to cool wort as quickly as possible after boiling: The longer the wort stays warm, the more chance there is for DMS to develop.
Indole
Tastes like: dirty sponges, halitosis, diapers
Caused by: coliform bacteria. These bugs, a family to which the dreaded E. coli belongs, are usually an indication of unsanitary food or water, but they can also thrive on improperly cleaned brewing surfaces and equipment. Brewers who make beer or store ingredients near farm pens or litter boxes have to be especially careful to avoid it.
Isovaleric Acid
Tastes like: American cheese, sweaty socks
Caused by: old or improperly stored hops. Isovaleric acid is a fatty acid found naturally in many plants, cheeses and, yes, foot sweat; it becomes a problem in hops that have been stored warm or for too long. Brettanomyces can also sometimes produce this compound.
Metallic
Tastes like: iron, blood, pennies, 9-volt batteries
Caused by: metal ions in brewing water. Municipal water left untreated by the brewer may contain some metallic elements, but non-passivated brewing and serving equipment such as kegs, keg couplers or draft faucets may also leach ions into the beer.
Papery/Oxidized
Tastes like: wet paper, cardboard
Caused by: Oxygen. Exposure of beer to air causes the creation of a compound called trans-2-nonenal, which has a distinct papery flavor and aroma. It often occurs over time in very old packaged beers, but can also be found in fresher beers aged warm or exposed to oxygen at some point during the brewing process.
Skunky/Lightstruck
Tastes like: skunk, really bad weed
Caused by: ultraviolet light. Hops, when exposed to sunlight or some fluorescent lighting, react with other elements in beer to form an incredibly pungent compound with the telltale aroma of skunk must. If you’ve ever tasted beer packaged in a clear or green bottle, you’ve probably encountered this off-flavor. Brown bottles offer decent protection from the ultraviolet light that gets the reaction started; cans are even better. But even beer poured into a glass from an un-skunked bottle, can or keg isn’t safe—a glass exposed to sunlight can skunk in as little as 10 seconds.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Beer Review - Grimm Double Negative Imperial Stout

Grimm Artisinal Ales Double Negative Imperial Stout (10% ABV)

Today's kick in the nnnnnnose is this beast from Grimm Artisanal Ales from Brooklyn, N.Y. (not to be confused with Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, Colorado OR Grimm Brewery from Utrech, Netherlands .... actually, that is confusing as hell). To make it even more confusing, the Double Negative Imperial Stout (10% ABV) is brewed under contract in Virginia. As a matter of fact, all of their beers are brewed under contract in various breweries around the region.

Grimm Artisanal Ales is a Brooklyn-based nomadic brewery founded in 2013 by Joe and Lauren Grimm after nearly a decade of tinkering with fermentation. The couple develops each recipe in the kitchen of their Gowanus apartment and travels to existing breweries near and far to craft their beers.  Grimm specializes in concise, elegant ales epitomizing the creative, experimental spirit of the American artisanal beer revolution. Each one is a single-batch, limited-edition release that may never come around again.

The beer is creamy and dense with a long lasting head.  The flavor of roasted malts, dark fruits, caramel and dark chocolate completely hides the high alcohol content. Even though it is a superb beer that you can easily enjoy right now, it is a bit raw and we recommend that you buy this one and let it age for a couple of years, it should turn into a diamond. They make a maple, barrel aged version of this that may be worth seeking out. Cheers, Bon.

Grimm Artisinal Ales
http://grimmales.com

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oktoberfest Beer Comparison

Oktoberfest in Munich is without a doubt the largest beer event on the face of the planet with 5.6 million beer afficianado's singing, dancing and of course, drinking their asses off for 2 weeks in September and October.  And this is only at one location; think of how many celebrate worldwide.

But we don't drink just any old beer at Oktoberfest, do we?  Nein, nein, nein, only Oktoberfest Beer brewed specifically for the event will do.  The beer served at Oktoberfest in Munich is a glorious lager, with every beer tasting quite similar, and while you will see an Oktoberfest marzen sold here, you really won't find it easily over there.  Brewers here in the U.S. create versions of the famous beer to be sold to revelers during the event, but how good is it compared to the original.  Drunk minds want to know.  So we assembled a few samples so see how ours compares to the original.  The lab rats were served the beers without knowing which beer was which or even which beers were being served.

We chose Hofbräu Oktoberfest (6.3% ABV) from Munich (left) to represent the German version of the beer for obvious reasons.  First, we have a Hofbräu in St. Petersburg and second it is quite easily sourced by youse guys. It is clean, crisp and identical to the beer being served in Munich.

Highland Brewing Clawhammer Oktoberfest (5% ABV) from Ashville, N.C. (right) was chosen as an example of marzen to see if it was preferred here in the U.S. vs. the original lager.  It contains more hop than that found in Munich but is quite easy to drink.

Tent Beer Helles Lager (5.2% ABV) from Six Ten Brewing (center) in Tampa was chosen simply because Chris Johnson is a superb brewer that can create about any beer style as close to original as anyone that we have met.

The tasters were simply asked to rate the beers in order of favorite to least favorite and to provide a few tasting notes about why they chose what they chose.  The beers were given 3 points for best, 2 points for second and 1 for third.  Here are the results:

1. (tie) Six Ten Tent Beer Helles Lager - 13 points
     comments:  "Nice aroma, very balanced"
                         "More like a traditional Oktoberfest"
                         "Clean Finish"
1. (tie) Highland Clawhammer Oktoberfest and Six Ten Tent Beer.  - 13 points
     comments:  "Like the caramel flavors"
                        "This is a Marzen, not Oktoberfest"
                        "Full bodied"
3. Hofbräu Oktoberfest - 9 points.  Now let's be fair here, this beer had obviously not beer stored correctly and had oxidized, but that is what anyone buying the beer would have received.
     comment:  "Meh"
                       "Skunky"
                       "Easy drink"

So let's say that even though the Marzen is not really a traditional Oktoberfest beer based on Munich standards, the Clawhammer is a fine drink and available right now here in Florida. The Tent Beer from Six Ten, from my recollection, is as close to the flavor of a traditional Oktoberfest beer as any that you will find in the States. Mr. Johnson again shows what a master brewer is.  And the Hofbräu?  Go to St. Petersburg and have a stein, it really is quite good.  Cheers, Bon

Six Ten Brewing
7052 Benjamin Road
Tampa, FL 33634
http://www.sixtenbrewing.com/

Highland Brewing Company
12 Old Charlotte Highway,
Suite 200
Asheville, NC 28803
https://www.highlandbrewing.com/


Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg
123 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
http://www.hofbrauhausstpetersburg.com/




Tips for Aging Beers in Difficult Locations

If you are a true beer snob, you are most likely aging several beers in a cool, quite, tucked away space.  But what if you don't have a cool place to age your liquid gold?  Here are some hints from DRAFT magazine to help you along.


The general rules of aging beer are, by this point, pretty well-known. Focus on high-alcohol beers and intensely flavored styles like imperial stouts and barleywines; store them out of the reach of sunlight; try to keep them at a constant temperature between 55 and 65 degrees. But for many would-be cellarmen, warm climates and the lack of a beer fridge make following that last decree particularly tough. What’s a beer nerd without a basement to do? For the answer, we turned to Patrick Dawson, an expert on aging beers well. He’s the author of “Vintage Beer: A Taster’s Guide to Brews That Improve over Time” and a regular drinker of ales that are older than you—he once tasted a Bass Ratcliffe Ale bottled in 1869, which had to be poured through a cheesecloth to catch all the chunks of coagulated yeast muck and crumbled cork, but still held up well. Dawson offers several tips for laying down bottles when your environment is far from ideal.
Invest in insulation.
Because so many beers are fermented in a brewery’s tanks at temperatures lower than 70 degrees, Dawson says that’s about as warm as you ever want your cellar to get. “There are certain flavors that could come out at that temperature that the brewer never even realized would come out,” he says. But for the sweltering late-summer months when even “room temperature” nudges near 80, getting above that magic number is unavoidable; you’re going to have to take extra steps to minimize the damage. Dawson suggests using styrofoam shipping boxes (the kind you can pick up at most large liquor stores) or an insulated cooler, which will at least mitigate the temperature swings and allow the beer to age more gracefully. “The whole logic with temperature swings is that there’s an activation temperature for certain chemical processes,” says Dawson. “They’ll slow down or maybe even stop at certain temperatures, so if you’re constantly stopping and starting these processes, the beer’s not going to mature as well. You want to just have that nice, steady temperature so the processes can finish out smoothly.”

Aim for the middle.
Don’t store your beer in closets with exterior facing walls, Dawson explains: They tend to get warmer and go through larger temperature fluctuations throughout the day. Try to find a space for your insulated boxes near the center of your home or apartment, where the AC will have maximum effect and what’s going on outside will matter least.

Buy tougher beer.
“If you have a 55-degree cellar, yeah, age an 8% or 9% beer, but if you’re only able to keep it around 70 degrees, I’d say nothing below 11%,” suggests Dawson. Big, viscous beers with lots of residual sweetness and loads of alcohol flavor are your best bet in staving off the thinning of a beer’s body and reduction in its malty sweetness that naturally occur over time and will be more pronounced at higher temps. He says, “For me, a dream barleywine bound for the cellar is basically screaming hot—like, it just tastes like rubbing alcohol—and it’s thick and syrupy sweet. Over time, that’s going to develop so much more complexity and have enough body that by the time I drink it, it doesn’t feel like a Diet Coke.”

Shorten their slumber.
Higher temperatures make beers age more quickly, so if you’re on the fence about how long you want to age it, err on the shorter side. “It’s always better to have a beer a little bit too young than too old, because once those stale flavors come about, they’re always there,” Dawson says. “If you open it too young, maybe it’s still a little too boozy and all that complexity hasn’t developed yet, but it’s still drinkable and enjoyable.”