Thursday, March 29, 2012

Summit Dunkelweizen

This month begins the newest entry in Summit's quarterly Unchained series of beers. This month is a Dunkelweizen.

I was pretty excited for this one when it came out. Dunkelweizens are somewhat ignored, and it's a great beer for spring. I bought this pack at Big Top, unrefrigerated, but presumably quite fresh.

It's a nice amber-caramel color and cloudy as you would expect. As for the taste? It leaves a little to be desired. I gave it a couple go's on different nights, and it's not a bad beer, but it's a little flat and doesn't leave much of an impression. It has a very nice balance of mild banana and clove (in that order) right up front and in the aroma. Some mild biscuit with a slight astringency follow and then it finishes quickly and quietly without much to say. It is missing a bit of the creaminess and that sort of hard-to-define subtle, wheaty/malty quality that outstanding German Weizens seem to have. This dunkelweizen is 6% abv, which strikes me as a bit high, but after checking, Erdinger (which is probably my favorite of the style that I've had) is only 1% abv less, so perhaps that not as large a difference as it seems.

I'd recommend giving it a try, and I'd love to drink it on tap, but perhaps it could have been better. One thing I do lament about the Unchained series is that they're here and then they're gone. I would love to try another updated version of this beer once they had some time to refine it, but that's it the nature (and part of the appeal) of these beers: one batch, and they're gone for good.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St Patrick's Day: the Tet Offensive for beer drinkers

It is the worst day of the year for us anti-social drinkers. Beware when going outside. I have read that half a million are gathering in Dublin today to drink and celebrate. It sounds truly terrible. March the 17th is when many chose to celebrate Patrick, the former slave and patron saint of Ireland, whose holiday was originally intended as a solemn event, rather than an ass-busting, beer drinking, all day BBQ street party (despite the latter being more common for Catholic observations as I understand*).

If you are going to wear green and binge, drink something Irish, like O'Hara's  (I do love their logo and labels) rather than Guinness, Jameson Bushmill's, or Bailey's which are all nice, but are owned by mega-super global giant Diageo.

And may the Great Irish Elk guide you on this solemn day.

*not really

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Newcastle's new ales (part II)

I recently tried one of Newcastle's new beers, Werewolf. Since then they have come out with the Winter IPA, and Founder's Ale. The Winter IPA sounded interesting to me, so I picked up a six pack. IPAs frequently seem to be relegated to late summer or fall (during the hop harvest when fresh hopped beers seem popular) but for my mood, something strong and bitter always seems more appropriate for winter. Newcastle's is not very strong, and it's not terribly bitter either. So much for that approach, I guess. As an IPA it left a little to be desired. It wasn't a bad beer, but when I hear something evocative like "IPA", certain perceptions pop into my head. When those expectations are underwhelmed, I can't help but let it color my opinion of the beer. This is one area where I feel beer-naming is important. If they had called it a pale ale, or something nondescript, it may have seemed impressive by comparison. Instead, it fell short. It's relatively clean, with just a touch of hop bitterness and flavor. It may be a good entry for drinkers who aren't versed in American style IPAs.

I was also fortunate enough to be sent a bottle of Newcastle Founder's Ale. It's billed more ambiguously. Listed variously as a pale ale or ESB, I had no real expectations to exceed or fall below. It has a distinct Newcastley flavor: mild, effervescent, and with just a touch of biscuit in the middle. The flavor comes and goes quickly with not much on the finish to remind you what it was like. These beers all tout clean flavors and drinkability which to their credit, they have in spades. As new entries in a market where exciting craft beers dominate, will they make a lasting impact? Both are available in the Twin Cities markets before the rest of the country.