Jul 30 2009

Beergate 2009 – Choosing the Right Beer

And so Beergate is upon us.  And why should be care is a natural question.

Much has been made about the invitation from President Obama to Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley to meet over a beer.  And just as much hype has been heaped upon the beer choices that these men have made.

The choices for this historical summit are:

President Obama: Bud Light

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. : Red Stripe

Sgt. James Crowley: Blue Moon.

As a craft beer fan, none of these beers stand out stand out as particularly good beers.  Well, in the case of Red Stripe and BL, the choices are downright bad.

But what is important about beer for this conversation?  Beer is still considered the beverage of the common man.  Metaphorically, we still call blue-collar workers “Joe Six-Pack”, although the Republicans may have ruined that for all of us. 

Beer is still the drink you reach for at a backyard barbeque, or at a baseball game.  Wine and liquor are a bit more formal.  You break those out for special occasions or structured events.  Beer, in this context, is about three men sitting around a table and working through differences.  Stepping beyond ceremony and just hashing things out like neighbors.

I think beer is the perfect choice for this situation and the environment that Obama is trying to create.  Obliviously, he could have chosen a much better beer than Bud Light, and frankly it behooves his images to move up to a Dale’s Pale (in a red, white and blue can no less) or a Sam Adams (brewer AND patriot) beer.

During the presidential race between Bush and Gore, polls pointed to George W. as the candidate that the typical voter would like to have a beer with.  I imagine that Bush would pick something as disappointing as an AB product, too.  I know they are human beings, but I think we all have to right to expect a little more of our presidents.  Certainly one of Obama’s advisors could have suggested something from his hometown of Chicago.  Maybe a nice beer from Goose Island.

I think Obama is a smart guy, but he isn’t the common man.  And, to be clear, I don’t really want him to be.   

It is common is for candidates running for office to be sorted into the “wine track” for upscale voters and a “beer track” for the blue-collar voters.  I’m naïve enough to hope that there is a common space between those two tracks that lends itself to some great craft beer. 

You want someone smarter than yourself to run the country, but the wine track guy is not someone I would immediately understand.  Seeing Obama at a White Sox game drinking something that actually deserves to be savored would actually speak to me.


Jul 28 2009

Splitting Homebrew Batches Part 1 – Bourbon Oak Barleywine

My latest homebrewing MO is to split and play around WITHIN batches as much as possible. 

The latest one is my American barleywine that just turned 7 months old.  It dropped from a 1.110 down to a 1.023 and finished at an 11.6 ABV.  I bottled ~4 gallons of that batch with oxygen absorbing caps, and then waxed the tops to let them age gracefully.

 Wax Top

The last gallon I racked onto a ½ ounce of American oak cubes that I steamed and then marinated in Blanton’s bourbon for almost 12 months.  (I can’t say that leaving them on the bourbon that long actually does anything extra special.  It just sounds cool.)  I’m going to age that for a few weeks and then bottle that last gallon.

bourbon barley

I imagine that it will taste nothing like it, but this is somewhat inspired by Lost Abbey’s Angel Share.  What I tasted of the flat barleywine that I bottled, it was slightly sweet with lots of dark fruit flavor and only a slight alcohol warming.  The hoppiness is fading quickly, and the bitterness is softening.  I’m curious to see what the oak and the residual bourbon does to this brew.

I still have some blue wax that can use to bottle the last gallon, as well, but I’ll have to drop a yellow crayon or something into the wax to make those look a little different.

At the end of the year, I can try one of each and compare and contrast. 

Looking to the future, I’m planning to brew my yearly saison this weekend, but I will split that one at least two ways.  The control part will be a standard dry and spicy saison.  Into the remaining beer I will pitch brettanomyces after primary fermentation.  For that I have a tube of White Labs WLP650 brettanomyces bruxellensis, but I might try to also culture up another strain of “wild” yeast from a commercial bottle for a third segment.

After that, I’ve got 10 pounds of cherries that might go into some big, Belgian ales.

Those will all be future posts.


Jul 20 2009

Anheuser Busch’s Bud Light Lime Review

Why are you doing this to yourself?  That is a very good question, and a reasonable way to start this review.  Bud Light Lime has been the butt of many of my jokes in the past.  Honestly, when trying to come up with the worst beer imaginable, I always point to BD Lime.  It sounds terrible.  An unholy abomination of beer.  

But sometimes you have to put your taste buds where your smack talk is.  It was time for me to buy and review this beer.  This beer equivalent of the white frat guy with dreadlocks.  And no, I did not get a little bottle of this fine elixir.  No, I bought big boy weighing in at 1 pint and 6 fluid ounces, but at a sessionable 4.2% ABV.  The plan was to drink the whole thing to get the true experience.  As the label said, it was a “Premium light lager with 100% natural lime flavor.”  No freshness date.

BL Lime - The Lime

I poured it into a tulip glass to get all of the sensory characteristics, although I would think a frosty mug would have been the natural environment for one of these brews in the wild.

The appearance was many shades of yellow.  The BL Lime is straw yellow in most of the glass with shades of Big Bird on the edges.  It reminded me of a pale, and pure, Berliner Weiss, although the head was fizzy and quickly disappeared to the flatness of flat apple juice.  

The aroma was lime with a capital “L”, but in the background was a corn sweetness that lingered. There were stages to the lime.  First was the smell of a lime flavored freezer pop.  Then it turned to the aroma of fresh limes, and then, towards the end, it mirrored a lime soda.

The taste was what I had steadied myself for.  I had cleared my calendar of good beer in anticipation of a taste bud crusher.  I was sure I was going to have bandages on my tongue like that kid that got stuck to a metal pole in a Christmas Story.  But that didn’t happen.


The body was water thin.  The carbonization was high and prickly.  But there was very little for me to wrap my mouth around.  The beer had a very persistent lime flavor and the whole taste experience was simple and one-note. There was no bitterness and, towards the beginning, there was very little aftertaste.  I was prepared for a light-struck bottle with more skunk ass than Pepe Le Pew’s wet dreams, but the lime covered it all up.

There is obviously a reason why people have been putting lime in Coronas for so many years.  To mask the flaws of these beers, and add some sort of flavor. 

Part of a thorough analysis of a beer is to let it warm up a bit and to see how the flavors evolve and get more complex.  I was going out with the family that night, and I let it sit on the bathroom counter while I showered.   After getting out, beer fatigue was setting in.  It became hard to drink and started to taste like one of those bottles of lime juice you can buy at the grocery store.  At this point, it became difficult to finish.  But I did, dammit.

I was prepared to hate the Bud Light Lime but, in the end, there was very little to love or hate.  The panacea of lime made everything level and unremarkable.    I’m not recommending the Bud Light Lime, but I can see how it would be refreshing on a hot summer day, or paired with Mexican or even Thai.  It won’t stand up to those flavors, but it might cool and revive your taste buds in extreme moderation.

In the end, this wasn’t terrible.  It just wasn’t beer.

Are there more “bad beer” reviews in my future?  I do not know.  You tell me.


Jul 14 2009

World Beer Festival-Richmond Postponed Until Spring 2010

Word is from Musings Over a Pint, that the World Beer Festival in Richmond has been postponed until the Spring of 2010.  That is disappointing, but it didn’t sound like things were coming together the way they had hoped.

In the meantime, Durham is still on for October.