Saturday, March 26, 2016

Good Beer Friday #8

Normally at this time on Good Friday, I'd be running through the music for the 3:00 services with the St. Andrew Chamber Group. This year, sadly, I'm sidelined with lingering effects from the cold that's kept me from reviewing most of the past three weeks: gravel voice. So I'm going to drink beer and listen to the songs I'd otherwise be singing. Join me: Johnny Cash's version of "Were You There". (putting this up on the day after Good Friday because I didn't get out for a draft till today...)

Omer Traditional Blond, 8.0%
I love the family-owned Belgian breweries. Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste has been owned by the Vander Ghinste family for four generations. They mostly make pilsner -- gotta pay the bills -- but they're making a set of traditional ales as well, and Omer is the big blond in the family. A Vander Ghinste named Omer has run the brewery for all four generations; kinda solid. I like that, too.

So what do we have here? Bright yellow beer, clean white foam with tenaciously tight little bubbles. All beers are beautiful, but this one's especially captivating to the eye. Oh, and the nose, too. Sweet clovey candy, orange marmalade, sweet and spicy without being sticky or cloying. It smells interesting, which is what I'm looking for.

Sipping time. First thought: 8%? Really? That's scary. Because this drinks like about 5.5%. Well-attenuated but not thin, and still spicy-sweet without being sticky. The fizzy fine carbonation runs all over my tongue and teeth and roof and cheeks, what a rush! This is more spicy than sweet, and there's no stickiness in the finish at all. That's by God well done, and I'm kinda regretting that I gave half of it to my wife!

Verdict: Good

Goose Island Four Star Pils, 5.1%
Whatever shall I do? Goose Island is owned by ABInBev! I believe I shall taste the beer with an open mind and leave my readers (both of you) to decide what to do with the information. I will say this: Goose has always made refreshing and thirst-quenching beers, and I expect more of the same in this 16 oz. can. Let's crack it.

Hmmm...kind of funky smell like pineapple and sweet cream; not unpleasant, just totally unexpected. Is this some more of these new hop strains brewers have been experimenting with? Still, it looks proper, with a beautiful white bloom of foam. Tastes better: malt, bitter hop, the right body, clean finish.

Something's different, though, and it's not the pineapple. I'm not liking the way the bitter and malt balance, and the hops taste...burnt, or blaring, or harsh. It's just not clean, integrated. I'd maybe have another pint...but I wouldn't buy a case.

Verdict: Okay

A Bunch Of Barleywines, 7.5% and up, draft
First flight
I went down to Tattooed Mom in Philly today for Split Thy Skull XXI, the long-running barleywine/strong beer festival I blogged about Thursday. Hoo-whee, it was a good time. I didn't taste everything, but I had 8 of them, Here are some capsule reviews.
New Crustacean Barleywineish Imperial IPA Sorta -- Way different from the old Old Crustacean. Blonde, not dark; sweet and light and bitter, not bitter and hard and menacing. New age stuff.
Southern Tier Back Burner -- Everything Southern Tier does well: big malt, big hops, big body, and not clogging the pipes. Finesse? Yeah, in 14" naval rifle style.
Alesmith Old Numbskull -- A clearly big beer, but light on its feet, nimble. Orson Welles dancing ballet. Impressive achievement, and one I like...but I like da heavy heavy monsta sound, too.
21st Amendment Lower De Boom -- Only one I finished. Good stuff, big but drinkable, and not overly zealous on the hopping.
DuClaw Devil's Milk -- Fat all around, big in every direction, this is a great example of how Jim Wagner hits the mark every damned time...but never gets the cred. Underrated brewery.
Summit Old Blaggard -- Tasted kind of worty, grainy, but delicious. Sometimes that really, really works, and this is one of them, because it adds a huge note of freshness in a style that benefits from it.
Pizza Boy Wonder Whine -- Always impressive, Pizza Boy delivers again in a beer that was one of the biggest I had all afternoon (12.5%) but the fruitiest and most varied. Fun!
Smuttynose Barley Wine -- Wow. A throwback, not a fossil. One guy at the bar was not impressed, I told him: this is what barleywine tasted like in the 90s. Back when there were fewer of us to please, and brewers brewed for themselves. Hat tip to Smutty for staying on that: heavy malt, big yeasty esters, just enough hop. An unshaven, unapologetic barleywine.

Verdict: Stellar event!


Bill said...

I'm a big fan of the 4-Star Pils, and find it pretty well integrated. I don't get pineapple, but I've only had it on draft and from a bottle. The hops are pretty floral to my taste, but the bitterness and softness work well. It was on track to be my regular lager this year until I discovered Revolution Brewing's Rev Pils, which is much more traditional in terms of German hops and malts, and stunningly good. If you want to pay attention to it while drinking, it rewards that, and if you just want to drink and be refreshed, it does that wonderfully, too. And great with food.

Happy Easter!

Steven said...

Sounds like you had the same experience with the Four Star as I did -- another American Pale Ale masquerading as a Pilsner. Sorry Bill, I get that pineapple character too (from bottle poured into a glass). I've seen the Rev Pils and will have to give it a try, but if it's another APA in a Pilsner label, I'm coming for you. ;-)

Lew Bryson said...

Thank God, I was starting to question myself. I worry (too strong a word, really) that the new interest in lagers is really about IPL and lagers brewed to taste like ales (but called lagers), in which case...what's the point? Then I drink a Firestone Walker Pivo, and I feel better.

Steven said...

Pivo? Really? Probably the first "Pilsner" I had where I needed to double-check the label! I drink a Trumer to feel better, myself.

And SN's Summerfest ought to be out soon... :-)

Lew Bryson said...

Damn. I liked the Pivo. But Summerfest, yeah. Doing it right. They've always made good lagers.

Bill said...

Dagnabit, pineapple is the last thing I want to taste in my beer, and if I fall prey to both of your powers of suggestion next time I have a Four Star, I'll... well, probably just shrug and keep drinking it. I'm easy.

Steve, the label (well, the can) for Rev Pils says all-German malts, all-German hops, Lake Michigan water, so unless they're newfangled experimental hops and malts, you probably won't get an APA quality. Lew and Steve, i do wonder whether those formerly all-ale breweries now producing lagers are still relying heavily on late addition and post-boil hopping more suited to their other brews. Luckily, our areas of the country have enough breweries that never stopped producing decent lagers and/or that specialize in them!

Steven said...

Not to say that I didn't like any of the beers discussed or thought they weren't tasty, but I was expecting Pilsner and they disappointed my palate.

Steven said...

Bill -- not going to let it deter me the first time (dry-hopped Pilsner?), but here's the description from Revolution's web site:

A traditional German pilsner undertaken with a reverent but decidedly American approach. Employing 100% Weyerman malts including Pilsner, Carafoam and Munich lends a subtly expressive base for this light-bodied, straw-hued pale lager. Noble and noble-derived hops including German Select, Saphir and Hallertau Gold (grown by only a single farm in all of Bavaria) impart aromas of earth, grass and spice. Our classic Bavarian lager yeast produces a clean beer which finishes dry and beckons you to sip again. We dry hop this brew with more Saphir, Select and Hallertau Gold, but we don’t get heavy-handed with it, allowing the more traditional aspects to speak audibly without shouting (in German).

I like the Weyerman malt grain bill, but I'm not a big Saphir fan. I'll let my palate be the judge. FWIW -- I liked Rev's Oktoberfest.

BTW -- it may have been closer to grapefruit than pineapple in the Four Star, but there was a definite piny character to the nose!

Steven said...

" unless they're newfangled experimental hops and malts, you probably won't get an APA quality."

Grabbed some of the Rev Pils on my way home and, yeah... well -- the minty-ish, semi-pine aroma and flavor of the Saphir hops is too overpowering for the style for me. The bitterness comes off a bit too resiny as well. It's a shame they used Weyerman malts because you can't taste them. They could have saved some money and just used N. American 2-row.

Lew -- another beer for the sake of over-hopping. "American approach" indeed.

Bill said...

My apologies for perhaps leading you to waste $10!

Steven said...

No worries Bill -- it won't go to waste. Beer bread, mixed with a much lighter beer, wait for the hop potency to die off... I'll make it work! :-D