Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Which I Ramble About Beer

All right, happy hump day, everybody! That’s right, it’s Wednesday!
So recently, a friend introduced me to yet ANOTHER Social Check In application called “Untappd.” This one is actually used for Beer. Yeah, it can be another version of “LOOK AT ME DOING THINGS, INTERNET!!!” or it can actually be used to keep track of a beer that you actually like, and where you found it.
I like to say I’m a novice homebrewer, but honestly, I have a Mr. Beer kit and I’ve done one batch. However, that is one batch more than some have done, and it was good, according to friends who drink that type of beer, so I guess I didn’t do that bad. However, since I didn’t know that much about any beer that’s not Guinness, I didn’t know how the Golden Lager was supposed to taste. So, in order to “improve my craft” I have felt the need to start trying some different ones when I’m out and about, or when I hit my Friendly Neighborhood Liquor Store, and no, I don’t know the name. I just know it’s on 96th Street near Aldi’s.
Now, as I’m picking up beers there, I’ve noticed that I’ve failed in trying to expand my horizons. So far, I’ve had a Schlafly Oatmeal Stout from St. Louis Brewery, a Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery, a Too Cream Stout from Dark Horse Brewing, a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from Wells & Young’s, and a Tres Blueberry Stout from Dark Horse.
I know, the way to branch out to other types of beer than Guinness is NOT by drinking other stouts, but it’s what I gravitate towards, so I’ll have to pay closer attention next time I’m shopping.
Now, when I’ve been out, I’m a little more attuned to what I’m trying. When I hit the Castleton Grill, I tried a Wee Mac Scottish Ale by Sun King. That was a tasty drink, for some reason that tasted better the second time I tried it. However, during my father’s surprise retirement shindig, I tried a Dragonfly IPA by Upland Brewing, and I wasn’t too fond of it.
So far, one thing I have noticed is that I’m not a fan of India Pale Ale’s. At least, that is what I think IPA stands for. There is something about them that tastes off to me, and they are very… well, I don’t know how to describe it other than something I just don’t like.
A major issue with trying to figure these out is that I don’t know squat about the different types, the flavors, what it means when a beer is too “hoppy” or things like that. I’m just buying, trying, and making notes on whether or not it’s something I would drink again.
So how about you? Do you have any recommendations? Any tips, any tricks?
Feel free to let me know. Or don’t. Whatever works for ya.
See you tomorrow,


  1. Concerning beer:

    The first thing to know is that there are fundamentally two kinds of beer: Lagers and Ales. Lagers are made by a kind of yeast that likes a cold fermentation process. Ales are produced by a kind of yeast that likes a more room temperature fermentation.

    From ales and lagers a whole family tree of different types of beers descend. But they are all still either an ale or a lager. For instance your stout is a type of Ale.

    Lagers were for decades completely dominant in America almost any beer consumed at a Fraternity party is a Lager (Budwiser, Michelob, Corona, Coors, etc). Which isn't to say that lagers are bad. You can make a crappy mass-produced beer of any type. They are typically golden in color and very clear.

    Ales are lots of different colors, not uncommonly a bit cloudy/hazy, and often with a bit more residual sweetness.

  2. Annoying beer lecture : Part the second

    What the hell are hops and what does it mean for a beer to be "hoppy"?

    Long ago beer makers had a kind of problem. When you make wine the skins of the grapes give off a kind of natural preservative (called tannins). Because of this you can keep wine (particularly red wine) for a long time.

    But when you make beer from grains you don't get these preservatives. So you would have to sell/use all your beer within a few weeks or it would go bad. They needed a way to make it last longer which is where hops come in.

    Hops are these little green pinecone looking things that grow on a plant in the cannabaceae family (Yes, they are closely related to cannabis. It is a very chemically potent family).

    Hops preserve beer, but impart a bitter flavor that some people dislike a lot. Also they are astringent. You know how when you put on aftershave it feels like the skin on your face gets pulled tighter? That is astringency. When you drink a really tannic red wine or really hoppy beer you can kind of feel the same tightening of your tongue.

    As far as the aroma, I think they smell kind of piney like a Christmas tree, but others would say they are more citrusy or herbal.

    Hop flavor is pretty polarizing. Kind of like hot peppers it is a flavor that you have to develop a taste for if you are ever going to like it. But many of those that have developed a taste for it swear by it.

    Obviously different styles of beer call for different amounts of hops. The more malty ales like stouts, porters, and brown ales use just enough to preserve the beer. While others use more.

    In particular the India Pale Ale (IPA) uses lots of hops. When the British ruled India they wanted the kinds of Ales that they drank at home. The problem was that in the hot and humid land of India the amount of hops they used back home just wasn't enough to prevent it from spoiling. So they threw in more which made it more bitter but kept it from spoiling in the heat. Eventually they got used to the extra bitterness and some of them even grew to like it.

    Recently the trend in America has been for super hoppy beers with names like "Hopslam", "Hopfather", and "Hopgasm". These are called American IPAs. I like a traditional British IPA now and again, but personally I think the whole "I drink a more bitter beer than you" is the same kind immature dick measuring contest as "I eat hotter chili/hot sauce/peppers than you".

    The goal should be to create a nice blend of flavors (including bitterness) not to just blast people with the most bitter/hoppy thing you can humanly produce.

  3. Annoying beer lecture : Part the thrid

    Ask for recommendations and you shall receive. You seem to like a more malty beer with just a hint of sweetness. Let's see.

    Stouts: I like the Young’s Double Chocolate Stout you mention above. Maybe my favorite stout is the Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, but it is fairly pricey. Last time I bought it I think I paid 12 USD for 4 bottles.

    Porters: Everyone seems to love Fuller's London Porter, but I have never had it. In general a porter will be very similar to a stout, so this would be a good place to branch out to.

    Brown Ales: My personal favorite style. Newcastle is the one you can get everywhere, but be careful they use clear glass bottles (which allows the light to degrade the beer) so I usually avoid it unless it is on draft from a keg. My favorite one is Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, which is only available in the fall. Dogfish Head makes an Indian Brown Ale which might be too bitter for you, but I like it. One that is local is Dirty Helen Brown Ale. It is made in Noblesville.

    These kinds of beers are traditionally associated more with Fall/Winter. An option for the warmer months.

    Wheat Beer: If you are feeling a bit more adventurous a wheat beer might be a good choice. It is a cloudy golden color and is often more citrusy and not nearly as bitter as many beers. Blue moon is a common one. In addition to the citrus it has a strong vanilla flavor that many like. Another readily available one is Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat. I like the 312 Urban Wheat by Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago.

  4. Thank you, sir, for the primer on Beer! Great Scott, that's a long read, but well worth it!

    I lift my current bottle of Schlafly Coffee Stout to you, my good sir.