Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grab Bag o' Tasting Notes

Had some good and not-so-good beers lately, and thought I'd put them all up together.

First, not-so-good: Samuel Adams Third Voyage double IPA (8.0%). Wanted to like this, had an interesting story about Captain Cook's 3rd Voyage (to New Zealand and the PacNW, where they got the hops for this twin-hemi hopped beer)...but while it had a spicy, fruity, piney nose, the beer itself was heavy, almost logy, and thick in the mouth. I know double IPAs are big, but the really good ones are much lighter on their feet than this.

Then, Samuel Adams turns around and delivers on the Belgian Session ale, at 4.3% (some details here), and it was wonderful. Skillful brewing got a lot of flavor out of the yeast, spices, and fruit peels in the beer, and that's what session beer brewing is all about. This one is a cross between a Belgian pale and a witbier, and it works quite well: the spicy notes mingled with light and creamy orange, and the whole thing finishes crisp and dry. This isn't me liking session beer, this is me liking a good beer.

I picked up two beers from Blatant Brewery in Massachusetts two weeks ago, and reviewed the Blatant Session here. I liked it, but I liked the Blatant IPA (6.5%) even more. The hops are firmly up-front, with an insistent pine-and-pith aroma and a captivating (and appetizing) bitterness on the tongue, and the whole of the beer trips lightly on the tongue, an agile dancer of an IPA that twirls and stamps. Delicious, and I wish I'd bought more.

I mentioned the newly reformulated Killian's Irish Red in my St. Patrick's Day post (you know, the one and only one), and it deserves further mention.I remember the way Coors originally did Killian's, back in the 1980s: a surprisingly estery ale, quite tasty, a beer I used to buy by the keg. Then they changed it...and it was bland, but still red, and propped up by plastic paddy marketing. This new beer is still a lager, I think, but the new Killian's is much more malty than the debased reddish-amber flab-bag it had become. It's slippery-smooth, with some juicy Vienna-like malt in the middle, and a good malt finish. Again, surprising. Definitely one I'd buy if I were out in a bar.

I also got a variety 12-pack of Genesee beers from my good friend Sam Komlenic for my birthday last month, and I cracked out two of them, too. 12 Horse Ale was an old fave,, not so much. Blunt, even coarse, to the point where I was thinking to myself, man, I hope this has changed, because I'd hate to think I once liked a beer like this. But the old reliable, Genesee Cream Ale, was a fun beer to drink! I wasn't expecting much after the 12 Horse wagon crash, but Genny Cream was sweet and light, showing the cream ale style that won multiple GABF gold medals (Genny Cream has more gold medals than almost any other beer; seven, I think). I'd happily order this again on a hot day in a shady bar.

Got some more, but I have to go sing. Maybe later.


Anonymous said...

Genny Cream has a designated spot in my beer fridge. THE CRISPER. 10 fit in there nicely. I always have some on hand.

Scoats said...

As part of a Genny Bock promo we have coming up, we also picked up several Genesee variety cases.

Genny Bock comes in a fantastic looking can. You just want to drink it up. Happily, the liquid inside is very tasty. And it all comes in a very low price. It's one of the best beer values out there.

Sadly Genny Bock is not coming into the Philly area this year, so Philadelphians will have venture upstate to find some.

To my recollection, I never had a 12 Horse Ale before. I knew this was one of the original go to "good beers" back in the dark days, so I was excited to try it. I agree Lew, it was a real disappointment. Very harsh, in every way. I will try another with a clean palate and see if my results differ.

Cream Ale on the other hand was great.

I still have to make my way to the Genesee "Beer". If it is anything like the beer they are putting in another brewery's cans for them, I will not be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Genny Bock is a real treasure and probably the best beer bargain out there, cool cans or not. Kind of glad the beer geeks are too cool for this beer as it is hard to find anyway without them. It tastes good, and different from any other bock, similar to how stegmaier porter used to be different from any other porter. I remember 12 horse from the 80's and this aint it. I think they accidently put genesee beer in the 12 horse bottles. The cream ale is always a winner, another great bargain that most people miss out on because they are too cool and "beer educated" for it!

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited that the 12 Horse has been revived (even if only as a special) and hope it is as I remember it. Loved it in college. The Cream Ale and Bock pop up here in the Midwest now and again and I enjoy them.


Anonymous said...

Hey bill if you read the article or any of the comments above you can figure out what to expect from 12 horse from people who drank it in the 80's. Just sayin...

Eli said...

Weird, I really liked the 12 Horse when I had it. It wasn't anything mind blowing, but it had a nice, almost nutty taste to it.

Anonymous said...

Eli, Did you have it in the 80's? I should rephrase my previous post to say it is not bad, and I was happy to drink it, but it was a disappointment in that it didnt taste like the 80's version at all.

JessKidden said...

When I saw the 12 Horse Ale in those “G” embossed US-style stubbies for the early promos for the Heritage Pack, I was hoping for the 1970’s version (altho’, the label graphics are the ‘80’s version).

The 12 Horse I drank in upstate NY circa 1977 was a VERY different ale than that 80’s 12 Horse- a bit more hoppy (but not much more, Genny always seems to be afraid to dip deep into the hop bales) but darker and richer- at the time, I compared it to a lighter version of Bass Ale. (Of course, Bass Ale at the time was much different that the stuff of today).

Back then I could only get 12 Horse in deposit bottles, the cardboard “shells” used were the returnable Genesee Beer ones. (I had a NY retail license, otherwise the beer was usually only sold in bars up there- I’ve heard the Rochester area would get it in the stubby throw-aways).

At some point in the early ‘80’s, I found the “new” version and was very disappointed when I tasted it. I recall reading some material that stated they’d reformulated it to compete with “Canadian style ale” (at the time read primarily “Molson Golden Ale”). I grew to like the “new” version alright – there was an upscale bar in Elmira, NY (yeah, sounds incongruous) that had it on tap and I’d stop in occasionally just for a 12 Horse (if my dungarees could get past the dress code).

In the ‘30’s – when Genesee made a number of ales, some Burton-Union fermented, aged in small 5 bbl. casks, etc- the 12 Horse Ale was called an “old stock” ale, was dry-hopped and used Genesee’s floor-malted malt from their own malthouse. So, it sounds like the ale had a long history of being dumbed down to “meet popular tastes”.

But, here’s the thing about this current version. It’s well-known - even confirmed by the son (also a Genesee brewer) of the original brewer/creator of the 1960’s-era Cream Ale in interviews – that GCA was a blend of Genesee Beer and Ale. Check the current stats at How do you blend a 4.5% beer with 148 calories with an 5.1% ale with 160 calories and wind up with a cream ale with 5.2% abv and 162 calories?

sam k said...

Yeah, I sure know how to splurge on a birthday present!

The regular Genesee in that variety was my top pick, followed closely by the cream ale. The 12 Horse was a distant third. I also remember it from its first and second incarnations, both of which were superior to this one. You are all correct in assuming it's different.

Bill said...

The 12 Horse is now out as part of Genesee's Spring sampler, and as far as I can tell, it's the version I drank in the 1980s -- simple, likely only bittering hops used, and not much of them, not rough yet not smooth. I like it, but it's a completely different beast than today's ales, where aroma/flavor hops are used. 12 Horse is an adjunct ale. About 7 years back, I spoke with a brewer at High Falls who said they had no plans to release 12 Horse again, and gave me guidelines for a homebrewed clone -- simple pale malt, some corn grits, and a nondescript hops variety to bring up the IBUs to about 15-18.

So I wonder whether maybe folks' tastes have changed thanks to the prevalence of all-malt, more-creatively-hopped ales when they say that this version is different than the 80s version. I'm not sure there'd be a way to make an even-more-simple version! Unless the changes in brewing vessels and other equipment affect the taste, perhaps?

The Fyfe and Drum that's a part of the Spring Sampler tastes like I remember Rolling Rock.