Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bluebird Bitter!

Amazing! I was extremely surprised to find a bottle of Bluebird Bitter in the case of my newly discovered local liquor store. The fact that I can get a six pack and a sandwich at the same time is a winner in my book. Bluebird Bitter is a well known English bitter, and something I was very eager to try. Most English bitters and similar beers are not transported to the US at all because of their relatively low alcohol content. Low alcohol beers do not store well for long periods of time, and obviously low alcohol beers which sell for less money tend to be less worthwhile for shippers and distributors. Combine this with the relative obscurity of the style, and a very misleading name which is unappealing to many American beer drinkers, and you've got the perfect storm for a beer style you will almost never see reach American soil. Naming a beer style "bitter" is truly something that would never happen today. Bitter is, in fact, not very bitter at all (especially compared to the super bitter IPAs or the mouth-puckering swill you can buy in cans). Bitter as a name originated at a time when comparable beer would have had very little bittering at all. So bitter was probably called such not just because it was primarily a bitter beer, but because it was bittered with hops to a noticeable degree at all. The designation "bitter" seems to have started in the pubs as a nickname more than an official designation. At the time, most pubs had two offerings: bitter and mild, so the names were more relative than quantitative. In the words of beer writer Michael Jackson: "How bitter? More bitter than the mild." Of course, the history of beer name origins are all murky and people are apt to believe what the want. All this led up to me squealing* with glee at the sight of a bottle at the store. Sadly, though, the aforementioned short shelf life, and poor handling of the bottle led to a mediocre drinking experience. I was not very surprised, and beer is beer, so I enjoyed it nonetheless.

It was sadly, a bit skunky. It had a very mild flavor and aroma which led me to wonder how long it had been on the shelf. It was still very drinkable and seemed to have a minerally, British sort of finish. There was some body, though not much, and almost no sweetness. This is in contrast to most American versions of this style, which are almost like dessert beers in their sweetness and fullness. Overall, this was very nicely balanced, despite the effects of age. I could certainly see drinking several, if the fresh version is even better than this was.

*metaphorically, of course

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Drink American Beer Day

This 4th of July weekend, if you're drinking beer, I would encourage you to Drink American. On a holiday where most people will be drinking and celebrating American independence, it only seems logical that we should put our money where our mouths are and only buy real American beer. Stuff that is made here, and owned here. Budweiser, Miller, and Coors, are all owned by foreign companies. Bud is owned by Belgian InBev, Miller and Coors (which are now one company) are owned by SABMiller, a South African company. Obviously all the various fronts and sub-brands of the two big beer-marketing companies are also not American owned. Pabst, Blue Moon, Shiner, Leinenkugel's, Red Hook, and almost any other beer that sort of seems like a regional beer that you can [mysteriously] buy in every gas station and grocery store in the country would all fall into this category. Sierra Nevada, Summit, Yuengling, Sam Adams, Rogue, and literally hundreds of real, local, independant breweries are all American owned, and truly in the spirit of the holiday. In fact, I would prefer you drink beer that is made locally and regionally in a different country before you drink beer from companies who attempt to appear American owned through deception. At least you'd be drinking something honest.

So grab a bottle or a pint (or 6) of American beer and if you see someone drinking crappy beer, execute a precision throat-chop to the face, and let them know that's it's official* Drink American Beer Day.

*designation is not official in any way