Friday, July 30, 2010

5 Beers I don’t ever want to drink again and other realizations from my childhood

Some craft beers are delicious. Some are really good but drinking more than 2 or 3 is a struggle. Some are interesting and some border on just strange. And then some are just not that good. Perhaps they just don’t appeal to you. Perhaps they were so bad you still shudder to think about it. To be honest, I haven’t come across that many I wouldn’t drink again. But there have been a few I’d like to forget.

Anchor Steam Beer: I had this once about two months ago and had difficulty finishing the bottle. But after watching this little video from Brewtal Honesty, I wanted to give it a second chance. It did not go well. The first few sips go down just fine and you start thinking “this isn’t half-bad.” Then you get past the halfway point and an aftertaste starts to build - it’s woody, it’s nutty, and kind of strange. I want to liken it to sitting on a patio that is too close to the clothes dryer vent but I feel the name “steam beer” may just be playing mind games with my palate. Cue the John Lennon.

By the end, I felt like I had licked a piece of treated plywood. But lots of people love it as it has a long and storied history in San Francisco dating back to the Gold Rush. Hey, the bottle looks really cool but I guess this one is just not for me - I mean what the hell is Steam Beer anyway? Anchor owns the rights to “Steam Beer” so this is the only one that exists - other brewers on the west coast make a similar beer but cannot use the term Steam Beer so they call it California Common. The idea is that it is a Lager-Ale hybrid that in the old days could be brewed with out any cooling or ice. Apparently no one knows for sure where the word steam came from and Anchor seems kind of mum about whatever process they currently use. The best explanation I’ve found about the word “steam” comes from the book The Naked Pint: it seems back in the day, the wort (this is the liquid that results from soaking the malt and grain in hot or boiling water and it’s one of the early steps in making beer) was cooled in tanks on the roof of the brewery creating a plume of steam that the whole city could see. That’s cute.

Side Note #1: The Anchor Brewery and Distillery, I believe they make a whiskey, was recently sold to the same group that made it rich with Skyy vodka. From what I’ve read, they promise to uphold all the Anchor brewing traditions.

Cristoffel Nobel: This a Belgian triple hopped lager but I have also seen it referred to as an Imperial Pilsner. Either way, it is not as hoppy as “triple hopped” would imply. This was actually one of the first beers I tried when I started this whole process and I didn’t think it was half bad then. I had it again just the other day and was no longer impressed. Looks like cloudy cider in the glass and has a dry sweetness to the malt that I’m just not a fan off. It’s not bad but also not good enough for me to ever want to drink it again.

Lancaster Brewing Co.’s Milk Stout: When I bought the Lancaster Brewing Co. Variety Pack, which included their Strawberry Wheat, Hop Hog IPA, Amish Four Grain Pale Ale, and obviously the Milk Stout, the man with the ponytail at the beer distributor complimented my purchase and said that the Milk Stout was his favorite stout. This peaked my interest as I too like a good stout. Unfortunately, this is not a good stout in my opinion. They make it using a lactose sugar, hence the name, and I have to assume this is what makes it taste different than what I normally look for in a stout. Some element of the flavor of this beer makes me want to wipe my tongue with a napkin. Even after the beer is done, the aftertaste made me shiver. I’ve have talked to 3 other people, that’s right 3, that related similar reactions. So counting my vote, we have one vote for the milk stout, cast by Ponytail Guy, and 4 votes against, all cast by people sans ponytail.

Sidenote #2: I’m not trying to imply that there is something wrong with having a ponytail. In fact, I am pro-ponytail. One of my good friends rocks a ponytail every now and again, at which point we call him Ponytail Phil, Pony Boy, or Lady. But other than the fact that this guy at the beer distributor compliments every purchase I make (he would probably say “good stuff” if I walked up to the counter with a case of Moose Head Light Lime), the most memorable feature about this man is his ponytail. So he is Ponytail Guy because it sounds better than Man Who Freely Compliments.

Lancaster Brewing Co.’s Strawberry Wheat: I’m not trying to gang up on the Lancaster Brewing Company. I love their Hop Hog IPA and the Amish Four Grain Pale Ale is pretty good as well. But even Ponytail Guy warned me that the Strawberry Wheat was a little strange. And it is - strawberry and beer is just a weird combo, but then again I am not a huge fan of any fruity beers. Wife loved it. Also, I heard that if you do a black and tan with the Milk Stout and the Strawberry Wheat that is tastes like a chocolate covered strawberry. Wife tried it, said it was okay. I took a sip and said “oh…no.” But I still think it is a neat idea.

Insanity (Weyerbacher): Weyerbacher is located in Easton, PA, which is where I grew up, so it pains me to put this on the list. I am a huge fan of most of their beers, many of which will be the subject of an upcoming post, but the Insanity brew is definitely not for me. To make their Insanity beer, Weyerbacher takes their Blithering Idiot brew, which is quite good, and ages it in oak bourbon casks or barrels. Blithering Idiot already has an ABV of 11.1%. Now the aging doesn’t increase the ABV any, but the bourbon taste of Insanity makes it taste even stronger. I do not like bourbon and the smell is enough to turn my stomach. So even though I only had a taste of it at the brewery, it was enough for me to make up my mind. Those that enjoy the bourbon would probably love this in a snifter during those cold winter months.

Honorable Mention: Alvinne Gaspar, which was made to be one of the hoppiest, most bitter beers in Belgium (it has a whopping 115 IBU’s, International Bitterness Units, where most IPAs fall in the 60-80 range), was originally on this list but after another trip to the Tap and Table and another taste of this I have decided it is not as bad as I originally thought. I’m not saying it’s great but I also can longer say I wouldn’t want to try it again. Also, The Left Coast Hop Juice (that I wrote about here) is not as good of a double IPA as the 5 oz. flight I had led me to believe. After this second trip and a full glass of the Hop Juice, I’d much rather have Weyerbacher’s Simcoe Double IPA. The Hop Juice isn’t bad, just not as good as I originally thought.

Now, I realize….
1. that not everyone has the same tastes as me
2. that some people love fruit beers and that a strawberry beer sounds like the best idea anybody has had since the fourth season of The Wire
3. lots of people like bourbon.

I also realize that not every craft beer is worth drinking just because it is a craft beer. But for every beer that doesn’t suit you there are probably 2 or 3 that do so don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch. You’ll never know unless you try.

Click here for some other realizations from my childhood...

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