Apr 28 2009

Founders Cerise Review

Here is yet another Founders review, because they just came to Virginia and I am like a kid in a candy shop. Well, a candy shop that only sells beer. And, of course, I’m not a kid and I’m old enough to drink. You know what I mean.

The Founders Cerise is a fruit beer flavored with cherries. That kind of statement usually sends beer drinkers in several directions. I’ll give you a moment. Ready? OK.

If you are the kind of drinker who cringes when you hear about fruit being added to beer, I feel you. I love fruit lambics, and I’ve brewed a few fruit beers in my time (mostly stouts and sour ales), but it is rare that I taste a fruit beer that I want to try again.

The story behind this brew is that they used to make a beer called Rubaeus, which was brewed with raspberries. That has been replaced with Cerise due to the rising cost of raspberries, and to support the farmers of their home state, since the majority of tart cherries sold in the U.S. are from Michigan.

This beer is 15 IBUs and 6.5% alcohol. The color of the Cerise is candy red, but not translucent. Like a dull Kool-Aid red that stains the lips of little kids. The head is thin and light pink in color.

The aroma is tart cherry. There is a back note of acidity, too.

The flavor? This beer has a liquor sweetness to it. It is almost as if someone cracked open a case of chocolate covered cherries and drained the contents into a glass and then threw away the chocolate. There is tons of cherry flavor and cherry skins. The cherries are supposedly added during five different times during fermentation, and there is isn’t a drop of this beer that isn’t riddled with red fruit.

This is a very well crafted beer. It has to be, because the sweetness of the fruit could have quickly over powered this one and turned it into a mosh pit of sweetness. But this has a backbone of light bitterness that keeps this one from becoming too cloying. I’m sure the multiple fruit additions are the secret behind this.

In the end, this one was hard to finish. It just isn’t my thing, but I might try it again with the right food pairing. It might be amazing with a dark, chocolate cake.

So the Founders lovefest ends here. It had to happen eventually, and I had a feeling this would be the dud for me.

It would be interesting to see Founders sour this one up. Dump with one in oak barrels with some brettanomyces, and I’ll be your Huckleberry.

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Apr 28 2009

Founders Porter Review

Yet more of the Founders lovefest here, and this time I’m digging into their porter. It is an American Porter weighing in at 45 IBUs and 6.5% alcohol. The label says “Dark, Rich and Sexy.”

It pours a pitch black with no highlights. The head is moderate and the color of an oatmeal cookie. The aroma is a wealth of roast, coffee and some brown sugar. There is some sweetness beyond the sugar, too, like baked cookies. (There is a cookie theme at play here….)

The taste of this porter follows the burnt sweetness of the aroma. The mouthfeel is full and creamy. Bitterness is there but not a hop bitter, but rather in the form of a burnt roastiness. I think it straddles the line between a stout and a porter, and both styles should be happy to try and claim it. As it warms towards the bottom of the glass, this beer is full of sweet baking cookie flavors and, at the end, chocolate. Not the sweet syrup kind, but rather a cocoa powder.

This is a very full and complex beer and it would make an awesome after dinner beer, and could complement many deserts. I really enjoyed the Founders Porter, but I cannot imagine having more than one in a single sitting.

It is dark, rich and sexy, and hopefully in Virginia to stay.

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Apr 27 2009

Craft Brewers as Locavores?

There was a landslide of pictures and tweets coming out of the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston last week. It is an industry event aimed at breweries and brewpubs, but that didn’t make me any less jealous to hear about the brewers in attendance and unusual beers being poured.

Greg Koch, the CEO of Stone Brewing Inc. , gave the opening keynote speech during which he played his “I am a Craft Brewer” video. (If you haven’t seen this toast, do yourself a favor and watch it. It is everything that is right with the craft beer movement.) This was a feel good event that, despite the recession, has every reason to be positive. During 2008, 56 microbreweries were opened and 10 closed. That is good news, but considering the timing of the US economic downturn, I imagine it only captured a portion of the closings. I’m sure Q1 of 2009 will not be quite as wonderful with all the breweries that limped through the holidays only to see the economy turn even worse.

Quality was still on the minds of the craft industry as a differentiator from the macro breweries, and Koch threw out this piece of genius during the address, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. That’s not our market.” He correctly pointed out later that craft brewer creativity goes into their brew kettles, while macro brewer creativity goes into marketing campaigns. The truth hurts.

Another theme he hit upon is calling craft brewers “locavores”. Locavores are essentially people who only eat food grown or produced within a 100 mile radius of their home. I’d like to hear what exactly he said because this is a pretty loose and elastic term despite being the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2007. Clearly he is referring to the craft brewers as production locavores, or the supply side of this equation.

I think the metaphor of the locavore is interesting and iconic.

Quality control and consistency is the cornerstone of manufacturing, and macros want everyone in the world to be drinking the same exact beer with different marketing-driven labels. If you want to be part of the crowd, stick with their beers.

Meanwhile, the tomato you get from your garden, or at the farmer’s market, is different than the ones set by rail across the country being pumped with ethylene. It just tastes better, and it is not the same weight, shape and size of all the other ones in the cheap, mass-produced bin.

These products do intersect at the grocery store. The vegetables are segregated in bins for the regular tomatoes and bins for the organic ones. In the same way, you see a 6-pack of Stone’s Pale Ale sitting just down the row from the PBR.

I think consumers “get” the positive effects of personality in locavore products. There is a uniqueness to each handcrafted ale. It is full of the local techniques and it is full of the brewer’s personality. And I’d hate to a craft brewer go broke just because what he makes is different and challenges the American public a little more than they are used to. But that is the game at play until consumers care more about the food and drinks they buy.

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Apr 26 2009

The Galaxy’s Center Tastes Like Raspberries

While sifting through the galaxy for amino acids, astronomers found ethyl formate, which is the chief chemical responsible for the flavor of raspberries, in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way. (Go to the Guardian UK to read more about the Galaxy’s centre tastes of raspberries and smells of rum)

I’m fairly certain I that I’ve never thought about exactly what the galaxy would taste like before. I’m sure if I did, it wouldn’t be so…..nice. I would have imagined it being more like putting your tongue on a metal screen door as a kid, or sucking on a rock.

This is much nicer than I hadn’t imagined.

I cannot wait to say that the next raspberry flavored beer or framboise I drink tastes like the “galaxy”. Such an obscure descriptor should be a signal for my beating.

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