What’s the World’s Best Beer City?

August 31st, 2010

The Huffington Post has a pretty stock list up today about the world’s best beer cities. Gotta love these features from HuffPo that clearly try to just get reads for having “beer” or “bikini” in the title. What’s that? It caught my eye? And yours, too? Goddamnit.

Either way, it’s hard to disagree with most of the picks (Portland, Berlin, Bruges), but there are some oddities on the list, like Mexico City (really?) and Burlington, VT. Burlington, VT, home of the famous and much-loved on this blog, Magic Hat Brewing Company! What wild and funky beers they have!

Set between two beer-bustling cities – Montreal to the north, and Boston to the southeast – Burlington, Vermont is a university town with one of the best brew cultures in New England. Home to the quirky microbrewery Magic Hat, visitors can do as the local beer lovers do and sample homegrown brews such as #9, Fat Angel, and Blind Faith IPA, to name a few. Church Street, a four-block pedestrian-only zone buzzes with vibrant bars with top-notch beer on tap, including Vermont-brewed Otter Creek and the Long Trail beer collection, whose specialty beers change seasonally.

Yeah, whatever. When you need ten cities to fill out the rest of an article, you just start writing stuff in. “Oh, look HuffPo Intern 1, there’s a Magic Hat in the work fridge!” “Oh, awesome, HuffPo Intern 2. Let’s include that in our list!” “Neato!”

Regardless of the list, it did get me thinking of the better beer cities not just in the world, but in the U.S. Is D.C. getting closer to cracking a top ten, or has it already? Do number of breweries matter, or just the variety of beer bars and beer selection? I’ve got to think Denver would make my list, and certainly somewhere in Michigan. Anywhere in Montana making a push? What does everyone else think?

The Huffington Post — The 10 Best Cities For Beer Lovers to Visit

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What’s the World’s Worst Microbrew?

August 12th, 2010

Since I’m sort of in a negative mood today, and Magic Hat got me thinking about some truly terrible beer, I started a search for what others thought the worst beer in the world was. Of course, it didn’t occur to me that Natty Light and Bud Light Lime are actually considered beers and almost always pop up near the top of the lists of worst beers. However, there really aren’t any lists that are dedicated to craft beers. We’re generally pretty nice around here, but maybe now’s a good time to venture toward our naughty side and really hammer some beers.

Before we make our list, I want to hear from you guys. What’s the worst beer you’ve ever tasted and why? Was it the execution, the bar, the style, the taste, the smell, the random bugs that happen to find themselves in your glass?

Now, beers like Michelob Ultra don’t count, nor do home brews. And let’s also remember that great breweries can produce truly poor beers. If I had to pick the worst I’ve ever had, it would be Bell’s Batch 8000. I remember it tasting like orange juice that had sat in the sun for weeks and been drizzled over the top of a skunk carcass. I love Bell’s, but that beer was disastrous.

So, what’s your least favorite craft beer?

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Nerd Beer? Nerd Beer.

August 10th, 2010

Wired has a really great article up today about some of the nerdiest beers on the planet (or at least the nerdiest beers they could talk brewers into sending them). We’ve seen a great connection between science, history, and beer before, so maybe this really is becoming a trend. They missed out on some of the uber nerdy Star Wars-themed beers, but still came up with some pretty good ones like Gigabit IPA (brewed in hopes of getting Google to place its hyper-fast Internet in Portland, OR), Moog Filtered Ale, and Biere de Mars, which I happen to have a bottle of sitting in my fridge. Here’s writer Betsy Mason’s take:

This beer is strong on malt and low on hops with a sweet start and a slightly sour, funky finish that we attributed to the wild yeast. It has some of that typical Belgian boozy feel to it, though it is a relatively mild 6.2 percent alcohol. Webmonkey editor Michael Calore summed it up as “sweet, but not too sweet.” Strangely, while everyone had more than usual to say about the different flavors in this beer, we were split on whether it had distinctive character or fell more on the mild and forgettable end of the spectrum. Personally I think Biere de Mars has a lot of interesting tastes, but they are subtle, which works for me. It could be a good training beer for people who aren’t sure about Belgian beers.

Make sure you get over to Wired to check out the whole list.

Science + Geek + Beer = Awesomely Geeky Science Beer — Wired

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Some Great Beer Pairing Tips

December 23rd, 2009

If you’re like us, you know that wine and beer go equally well with a hearty holiday meal. I was prepped to write a guide about pairing some great brews with holiday meals, much like Miles did for Thanksgiving. However, Jay R. Brooks from one of my favorite newspapers, The San Jose Mercury News, beat me to it. I could do my own, but Brooks really did a great job about giving suggestions and reasons behind pairing. He even put into some of the beers I would have suggested selected. A little excerpt for his suggestion for ham is below, but really do check the whole thing out.

A glazed, baked ham is one of the most popular Christmas roasts, and one complemented by several very different beer styles. One of my personal favorites with ham is a Belgian-style golden, especially one that’s got some strength. Russian River Brewing’s Damnation is a great choice, as are North Coast Brewing’s Pranqster or Duvel Belgian Ale.

Other styles that work well with ham include dry Irish-style stout (Moylan’s Dragoons), pilsner (Trumer Pils), Märzen or Oktoberfest (San Jose’s Gordon Biersch or Davis’ Sudwerk), Helles (Kona Longboard Lager), English-style brown ale (Big Sky’s Moose Drool), or a strong winter ale (Full Sail Wassail).

The San Jose Mercury News — Brooks on Beer: Pairing Beer with the Holiday Meal

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Best Beer Books

December 15th, 2009

beer_bookI’m finding it harder and harder every year to come up with good gift items, not only for other people, but for myself especially. By the age of 23, I feel like I’ve received everything that is really appropriate as a Christmas gift, so my Christmas list the last few years has been pretty sparse. However, if you’re a beer lover, there are endless gadgets, supplies, and products to satisfy the appetite of even the most amateur beer snob.

But one gift that really works well for a beer lover of any variety is beer literature. Now, you could fill an entire library with books on beer if you wanted, but that wouldn’t be very practical or cheap (though if you do have a beer book library in your house, I owe you a cold one). However, giving the gift of beer literature is a great holiday gift, and something I’d really recommend. I’d like to single out five reads that are great for all beer lovers. Enjoy.

UltimateBeer“Ultimate Beer” by Michael Jackson; $19.77 from Amazon.com
No, not that Michael Jackson. But this Michael Jackson should probably be just as famous. One of the world’s foremost beer intellectuals, Mr. Jackson presents “Ultimate Beer,” a large, hardcover coffee table book that’s perfect for anyone looking to pair beers with food, or to just look at the wonderful photos. Michael Jackson goes into great detail about the types of beer throughout the world, and when to enjoy each of these types. A perfect book for anyone who knows everything about beer, or for someone who is just getting into tasting on their own, “Ultimate Beer” is the book that will have anyone with beer on the mind in a great mood this holiday season.

“The Beer Book” by Sam Calagione; $16.50 from Amazon.com
A book I own and love, “The Beer Book” by Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, is the perfect book for anyone obsessed with American craft breweries. Featuring short profiles from breweries all over the United States, as well as the world, “The Beer Book” is the encyclopedia of the breweries you need to know about. Interspersed in the shorter profiles are longer features on the various beer types, as well as deeper looks into brewing processes, background info on where beer came from, and in-depth looks into some of the stranger beers and breweries in the world. This book is a must for anyone looking to branch out in their beer tasting, and it provides a handy checklist for making sure you’ve been to as many breweries as possible. Spoiler alert: you have got a long, long, long, long, long way to go before you reach them all.

howtobrew“How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time” by John Palmer; $13.57 from Amazon.com
This is the book you must own if you want to become the next Great American Brewer. John Palmer tells you how to make beer without leaving out any details. Palmer sets the foundation to start creating your own beer the right way, all while displaying his wonderful wit and prose. The book might seem a little overwhelming for the first time brewer, but if you want to know how to make beer, and how to make it right, this is a great place to start. Even if you’ve brewed before, there’s nothing like learning new techniques and also moving toward making your own beer totally from scratch.

“Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass” by Randy Mosher; $13.57 from Amazon.com
If Palmer’s book is your first vehicle, then “Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass” is your Corvette. Mosher doesn’t settle for creating just the standard beers. He wants to show even the guy next-door that making wild beers isn’t far from reality. When Michael Jackson is writing the foreword, you know this is a special book. If you’re a first time brewer, you might want to pick this one up a little tentatively, but don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon when you’re just starting out. The best beers in the world can be made this way. With Mosher’s guidance, you’ll be creating unique beers that may not even exist yet in no time at all.

ambitiousbrew“Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer” by Marueen Ogle; $10.20 from Amazon.com
We may not all be fans of the macrobreweries and the beers they’re pumping out today, but America’s current beer establishment owes a lot to those once burgeoning giants. Maureen Ogle’s “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer” chronicles the rise of the American brewery, its journey through prohibition, and how the microbreweries have to the forefront today. A beer book for the history lover, Ogle’s research uncovers interesting anecdotes about all things brew, including the fact that we’re the ones to blame for the big-time breweries producing weaker brews. This should be required reading for any American history class.

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The 12 Beers of Christmas: Seriously Bad Elf

December 14th, 2009

We're counting down to Christmas with 12 beers that resonate with the feel of the holiday. Some beers were nice; some beers were naughty. This is The 12 Beers of Christmas. Enjoy!

shelton_brothers_seriously_bad_elf_gallery_01--gt_full_width_landscapeOn the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… one seriously bad-elfed beer! Ridgeway Brewing is the king of Christmas-based brews, and their line of various types of naughty elf-themed beers is easily one of the brewery’s most recognizable. But the one we went with for the first day of Christmas? The Seriously Bad Elf.

For such an ill-behaved elf beer, I was expecting a rather vicious color when the beer was poured. However, we were met with a super translucent, golden wheat color that was clearly filtered. But the smell was where this elf started being naughty. A heavy, boozy scent shot out of the glass, with maybe a touch of pear complimenting this 9% ABV, English double ale.

SeriouslyBad

Seriously Bad Elf wasn’t quite as sweet and boozy as a barley wine, but the alcoholic nose was inviting, especially with the cold temperatures outside. The taste wasn’t anything terribly exciting to write home about, but as an English double ale, you got your typical heavy mouthfeel that was quite bitter and carbonated, with the aforementioned alcohol hanging around with the other ingredients. It’s a strong beer, but not a night-ender by any means.

So is this beer a seriously bad elf? Probably not. We’re thinking a name change for this one is in order. Something like Jay-Walking Type Bad Elf. Or Renting a Car When 22 Type Bad Elf. Or even Pirating Some Music Kind of Bad Elf. Seriously bad? No. Tasty, though? No doubt.

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Listin': Winter Beers

December 2nd, 2009

beer_santaSomething about this season has me in a beer mood. Maybe it’s because Rudolph is on tonight, or maybe it’s the Christmas lights I see driving home, or maybe I would really, really like to have a beer or twelve with the real Santa Claus. Whatever the reason, I’m in the mood for some winter beers.

Rob Kasper over at the Baltimore Sun posted the paper’s list of the best winter beers today, and I was pleasantly surprised to have tried quite a few of the ones he listed. So, in the spirit of the holidays, here are some of my favorite winter beers (with a heavy emphasis on some Christmas selections because, well, Rudolph is on tonight) that will always go down well after a day of skiing, or will combine with a book and a chair underneath the Christmas tree nicely.

lumpLump of Coal — Ridgeway Brewing Co. in South Stoke, England: The only time I will be happy to find a lump of coal in my stocking. A thick brew that clocks in around 8%, Lump of Coal is a hearty stout that isn’t afraid to let the alcoholic hints take the stage. Subtler and sweeter notes of chocolate and coffee give way to a welcome, warming taste of alcohol that is more drinkable than whiskey and won’t be pushing you to embarrass yourself at the office holiday party. Plus, with a name like Lump of Coal, how can you go wrong? Ridgeway Brewing makes a whole holiday line of beer with names like Pickled Santa, Reindeer’s Revolt, Santa’s Butt, and one of my other favorites…

badelfBad Elf — Ridgeway Brewing Co. in South Stoke, England: Another one of Ridgeway’s winter mainstays, Bad Elf is the lesser of the naughty elf beers (the others: Very Bad Elf, Seriously Bad Elf, Criminally Bad Elf, and Insanely Bad Elf), but it gets huge points for drinkability. A well-built and hearty beer, Bad Elf is a sweeter IPA than most would prefer, but the drinkability of it is what makes this something everyone can enjoy. You can almost see the elves downing a bunch of these while putting together bicycles and toy trucks. It might even be perfect for you while you struggle with setting up the kids’ new bike, or the Lego set that needs to be done NOW. Embrace your inner bad elf and give it a try.

1celebrationSierra Nevada Celebration Ale — Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA: In my mind, this is Sierra Nevada at its finest. The Celebration Ale may not scream winter, this highly aromatic IPA is super hearty and always a good find. If you think you’ve tried all the IPAs out there, give the Celebration a taste and notice what an IPA made for winter can, and should, be. Slight fruity notes coupled with avalanches of hops make this a real thick desert treat or one to have a go with on a chilly night.

1winterwhiBell’s Winter White — Bell’s Brewery Inc., Kalamazoo, MI: Though it’s not the strongest or most commanding beer for the winter season, Bell’s Winter White does offer a smoother and calmer take on the winter season, and something infinitely better than Sam Adams’s winter selection. Smelling of sweet citrus fruits and winter spices, Winter White is a great drinking beer for holiday gatherings, even for the pickiest beer drinker. Couple this one with a spiced cider and settle in with some friends and watch the snow fall lightly outside. Note the subtle hints of spice and yeast and you have yourself something for a calm winter’s night.

1chickoDogfish Head Chicory Stout — Dogfish Craft Brewery, Milton, DE: Dogfish Head couldn’t make just a normal stout now, could they? And thank Santa they didn’t. This Chicory Stout adds a touch of burnt wood and an earthy-tone to the traditional stout. With notes of coffee and roasted malt, this beer is full of flavor, but won’t fill you up before you go out for some caroling. Couple this brew with some chocolates or some blander Christmas cookies and you’ll have a great take on the cookies and milk combo. Plus, leave it out for Santa and he’ll probably leave behind an 56″ LED television, a riding lawnmower, and an iMac or three.

1santaresSanta’s Private Reserve — Rogue Brewing Company, Newport, OR: It may not be what Santa would drink, but I could see him keeping a healthy batch of this for when the elves were being asses or if Mrs. Claus scratched the sleigh with her purse. Making up some of the best traits of Rogue, Santa’s Private Reserve balances a dry-hop finish with a good bitterness that is hard to find in red ales. The touch of pine adds enough taste to the season to make this a great compliment to any holiday dinner, or even a companion out for a night of ‘tubing.

Young’s Winter Warmer — Wells & Young’s 1warmerBrewery, London, England: This guy is winter in a bottle. Think looking for a Christmas tree and accidentally eating one instead. A murky and cloudy beer that doesn’t pack the usual alcoholic punch, Winter Warmer is a smooth and calm beer with touches of citrus and  caramel and molasses end notes. This won’t warm you like whiskey might, but if you’re seeking something that might remind you of childhood and opening presents and Dad swearing that the dog just ate one of the G.I. Joes you got, this might do it—it’s just that comforting.

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Wine Enthusiast Top 25 Beer Selections 2009

December 1st, 2009

beer medalsWine Enthusiast has handed out its picks for the best 25 beers of 2009. This is a tremendous undertaking, and I think it would be awfully tough to rank beers on any scale, but I have to hand it to Lauren Buzzeo for giving the top 25 a go and coming up with quite a fair list. Turns out, only one beer we’ve reviewed, Deschutes Jubelale, shows up here. Guess we have some work to do.

I obviously have some qualms with the selections (Eliot Ness shouldn’t be anywhere near the top ten; any beer I’ve had from Southern Tier has been a little overblown in my opinion; Sierra Nevada Summerfest?!?), but I do agree with a number of the picks (Sam Adams’s Boston Lager has always been an incredibly underrated beer for what it is, and tastes marvelous out of a tap; love seeing the Jolly Pumpkin folks, and a fellow Michigan graduate, getting some respect) and I also love the diversity in brews selected. But really, what would a list be without a little debate? Be sure to check out Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s December issue for the full list, and also check out its Beer Buying Guide which ran back in June. Both are great reads.

I challenge everyone to make their own list of favorite brews before New Years. We’d love to have your take on the best beers in your eyes, er, tongues.

Wine Enthusiast Top 25 Beer Selections 2009:

25.  Victory Festbier (Marzen/Oktoberfest; Victory Brewing Company, PA; 5.6% ABV)

24.  Nuova Mattina (Saison/Farmhouse Ale; Birrificio Del Ducato, Italy; 5.8% ABV)

1peche23.  Dogfish Head Festina Peche (Berliner Weissbier; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc., DE; 4.5% ABV)

22.  Left Hand Oktoberfest Marzen Lager (Marzen/Oktoberfest; Left Hand Brewing Company, CO; 6.0% ABV)

21.  Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (Pumpkin Ale; Smuttynose Brewing Co., NH; 6.0% ABV)

20.  Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Czech Pilsener, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., CA; 5.0% ABV)

19.  Nostradamus (Belgian Dark Strong Ale; Brasserie Caracole, Belgium; 9.0% ABV)

18.  Samuel Adams Boston Lager (Vienna Lager; The Boston Beer Co., MA; 4.7% ABV)

17.  Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale (Saison/Farmhouse Ale; Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, MI; 4.5%)1bambiere-tile

16.  Allagash White (Witbier; Allagash Brewing Company, ME; 5.2% ABV)

15.  Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09 (Belgian Dark Strong Ale; Stone Brewing Co., CA; 8.9% ABV)

14.  Deschutes Jubelale (Winter Warmer; Deschutes Brewery, OR; 6.7% ABV)

13.  St. Bernardus Wit (Witbier, Brouwerij St. Bernardus, Belgium; 5.5%)

12.  The Lost Abbery Duck-Duck-Gooze Ale (American Wild Ale; The Lost Abbey, CA; 7.0% ABV)

11.  La Moneuse Saison (Saison/Farmhouse Ale; Brasserie de Blaugies, Belgium; 8.0% ABV)

Check below the jump for Wine Enthusiast’s top ten beers of 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »

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