A Tale of Two Beers

So I know I have been lacking on my posts as of late.  As my regular readers already know, I am a teacher.  So I am technically off the whole summer; although, I do work part-time at a restaurant as well.  So, I have been there a lot lately as well.  Although it is a terrible excuse, I just haven’t really made a whole lot of time for blogging.  That however doesn’t mean I haven’t actually had any time to actually taste any new beers.  Although, I have had a few different beers lately I would like to talk about, I am going to focus more on two beers that really stand out.

The first beer I had a little over a week ago, despite the fact that it has been sitting in my beer fridge for a few weeks now.  I was drawn to this beer, New Grist by Lakefront Brewery, because I thought it sounded really different.  It is brewed using two ingredients I had never thought of: sorghum and rice extract.  Walking through the beer store I thought that this sounded really interesting; however, when I got home and actually looked it up, I realized that is actually brewed this way to make it gluten free.  Now, I didn’t set out to review something considered gluten-free, but it does add an interesting aspect to this beer.  Also, I thought it could add something interesting to the flavor.

Unfortunately, this didn’t have the interesting taste aspects I was hoping for.  First of all, this one pours out a very light golden hue.  Really it is almost more yellow than gold.  Although I don’t mind lighter beers in the summer, this one was so light I really had a big fear I had made a mistake in purchasing it.  This was only confirmed by the lack of any head on the glass.  The pour was extremely flat.  I knew this wouldn’t be a good sign.  This in my opinion was shaping up to be a very bad decision.

There were really no hefty smells of anything coming from this beer.  Yet another sign that I had made a terrible decision.   What I could pull out were some light citrus notes and, if any smell was really at the forefront, I would have to say there was some banana notes that were pretty strong as well.  I definitely didn’t really pull out any hops at all in here.  Also, no real malt aroma to this one really.  It just seemed to be lacking a lot even before the taste.

The taste was also unfortunate.  It had a very light flavor to it.  For me, I really enjoy a complex flavor that is more bold.  This did not meet any of those desires.  The citrus and banana flavors come out in the flavoring, but it’s almost hard to say this beer tasted much like anything.  There was a little bit of hops in the end of the flavoring, but otherwise, there really wasn’t anything to speak of.  This was just a very light pilsner that I think gives another option to the beer drinkers who are upset there is gluten in Miller and Coors light.

Finally, mouthfeel was actually the only redeeming quality here.  Over the summer you want something that has a light and refreshing taste to it, which this one achieves.  Of course, so does water.  But, that being said, it had a high amount of carbonation, which proves you can carbonate a beer without producing head.  It went down really smooth and had a really clean feel to it.  If you want to drink beer without knowing your drinking beer, here is your chance.

And now, on to the good stuff….

  Now if I’m being honest, I didn’t buy this one, bring it home, and decide it would be a great beer to review.  This past weekend I went with my wife and a few friends to Little Miss Wiskey’s Golden Dollar in Washington DC.  This is a great location a few blocks from where we live.  I of course started my night with a can of DC Brau Public ale; however, while sitting there in front of the beer cooler I noticed a category I had never seen before: a triple IPA.  IPA’s are definitely some of my favorite types of beer.  I’ve had imperials, and doubles, and of course the 120 minute IPA, but I have never had one that is considered a triple.  I knew I had to try this one.

This beer is produced by Founders and called Devil Dancer. Looking this one up on the Founder’s site revealed that it is 112 Ibu’s.  Therefore, definitely one of the hoppiest beers I have ever had.  Also, the site states that it is dry hopped with 10 different varieties of hops.  This really helped to explain the taste I was soon to experience.

The bartender gave me a little warning about this one before handing it over.  I assured him that I was ready for this delight.  Judging by the amount of Miller lite that was pulled from the fridge, I’m willing to bet he took me for another college boy trying to impress his friends.  However, he handed over the bottle and I began to indulge.

I believe I did make one not-so-fatal mistake.  He asked if I wanted a glass to put it in, to which I said no.  Upon reflection, I believe this would have allowed this beer to breathe a little more and given me a greater appreciation for the color and aroma.  The aroma even out of the bottle was still pretty obvious.  There were a lot of hops in there.

The taste of this one was pretty incredible.  It definitely still had a good malt backbone, so the hops weren’t the only thing coming through here.  I think that is a definite sign of a good hop-bomb; however, there was no hiding the amount of hops in the later half of the taste.  It was so herbal you would swear that you were drinking a straight up plant.  Perhaps even a plant that may not be legal.  This taste really hung around too.  The taste just developed and lingered so much that it was difficult for my wife and friends to really stand it.

If you’re looking for a real beer experience, I can’t help but steer you away from New Grist.  I suppose go for it if you love a good standard Miller lite, but can’t take gluton.  However, if you really want to challenge your taste buds and have a beer you won’t soon forget, check out Founder’s Devil Dancer.  It definitely might be a challenge for some, but I’m looking forward to giving it another shot.  Perhaps in a glass this time.

Teacher Rating: New Grist – F

Teacher Rating: Devil Dancer – A

Italian beers

So if I actually have a loyal reader base, you will have noticed that I have been a little absent over the last week or two.  Well, I promise I have a very good reason for my lack of content: I was in Italy.  We did a little tour of Italy over the last few weeks.  We spent about 3 days in Rome, 3 days in Florence, and then finally ended out the trip with two days in Venice.  Now lets face it, Italy isn’t exactly known for their beers. Therefore, I drank far more wine in Italy than I did beer; however, I always made sure I tried to try out any new beers I came across in this foreign land.  Thankfully, it actually had quite a bit to offer.  There of course was the good, the bad, and the down right terrible.  But, overall, I was pretty pleased with my entire libations experience.  There was actually one night I could spend an entire blog on, but I have decided to end the blog with a more concise synopsis of that particular night.  More on that later. Lets begin with the standard beers.

Venice's Favorite

Rome's Favorite

Florence’s Favorite

Above you can see the pretty standard beers I had in each city.  The way pretty much everyday worked is we would wake up, head out for a lot of walking and site seeing, head back to our room for rest, and then head out to enjoy the nightlife.  During the rest period, I would hit up a local store on the way back to grab a beer or two to drink while I rested.  Sort of a little treat each day.  In Rome, the easiest to come by was Peroni.  I actually typically just bought it in cans because it was about a euro, but the big bottles for about two euros were available as well.  In Florence, I could only find the big bottles on the way home.  And, after trying a few different places, I figured out Bierra Moretti was more their beer of choice.  Venice actually offered the best selection of beers at the corner store, but if you went out and asked for a beer, they almost always only had Nastro Azzurro.  All three of these beers were pretty much standard pilsners.  Nothing really special.  I would call them the Bud products of Italy.

Here I’m going to cut to the two beers I did not really enjoy.  The very first beer advertisement I saw when I arrived in Rome was for this beer: Le Biere du Demon.  I will have to admit I was very interested.  It just sounded like something I had to try.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to what I had hoped it would be.  The biggest thing that stuck out to me was that it tasted really really boozy.  It was so overwhelming, I was surprised I didn’t see more homeless drinking this on the street.  You may notice that it has a big 12% sticker on the neck of the bottle.  This helps to explain why I couldn’t enjoy this beer. The other bottle that just wasn’t for me was actually an import from Denmark by the name of Ceres Strong Ale.  I saw this beer in all three cities, but actually saved it for the last random beer I had. This was definitely better than the Demon, but it had a similar issue.  It just tasted far too boozy for me.  I think maybe I would have enjoyed this slightly more had it been a little cooler in Italy at this time of year.  I was also walking the streets of Venice at the time.  It wasn’t a great walking beer.  Of course, it is great to just walk down the streets and enjoy a beer anyway.

From here I’ll take my last stop before getting into one of my favorite nights of the entire trip.  There were quite a few other random beers I managed to have in between my standard beers.  These I managed to find at random times and had to be immediately purchased. The first of these beers was in Rome.  I saw this store that said Hops and Barley homebrew.  I was immediately set on going in.  I went in and saw they had an Italian IPA.  Sold, I really wanted something hoppy at this point.  Brewfist Spaceman came in at about 70 Ibu’s.  It wasn’t really a hop bomb or anything, but it had just the right amount of hops to enjoy walking down the hot streets of Rome and enjoy a good beer.

In Florence, completely tired of drinking Bierra Moretti, I stopped in a lot of shops on my way home and managed to find a bottle of Frankziskaner Weisbier.  Obviously this is a German beer, but like I said, I had grown very tired of the limited selection here.  This beer did just what I need it to do, give me a good clean wheat beer after a hot afternoon.  It was so nice to have something that was a little different for a change.  I couldn’t have been more happy to find this one.

Venice offered a lot more variety than I was expecting.  There were three different beers I managed to find here that were a little different and still pretty enjoyable.  First was Sans Souci Special Lager.  I really can’t sing it’s praises.  It was a lager, although kind of bordering on that lager classification.  I think I was more happy to see it after spending so long only seeing Birra Moretti.  The second interesting beer I had in Venice was Castello Birra Lager Rosa.  This was a really good beer as well.  This was a much better example of a lager than the Sans Souci.  It still didn’t have a ton of special taste to it, but it was enough to make me happy for the afternoon.  The last beer I managed to have in Venice was actually called Birra Venezia – Bianca.  This one was actually a wheat beer as well.  I was a little surprised to find such a good beer in Venice bearing Venice’s name.  When I saw this one, all I could think of was this was the tourist’s beer.  However, I thought I had better give it a try.  I’m really happy that I did because it had some great flavor to it.  I wasn’t sure what a Bianca would qualify as; therefore, I almost went with their Rosa.  But, I think the Bianca was a great choice.

On to the best beer night of the whole trip.  Our last night in Rome, the man who ran our hotel told us about a great place for beer known as Bir and Fud.  I was a little skeptical of a great place for beer in Italy, but I’m glad he directed me there.  We walked in and I order off a very long list of beers I had never seen before.  The first was of course an IPA for me called Zona Cesanni.  This was an amazingly good IPA.  It had a really good amount of hops without being too overly powerful.  I was very pleased with this beer, and about to head out impressed with the place, but then I heard the bartender telling off an American frat boy.  After listening to him go on about the beers on tap, I knew I wanted to talk to this guy.  His name was Ivan (sounding more like E-van), and he selected the beers they carried. I told him I loved the place and asked him for a personal recommendation.  He pointed me to Terzo Miglio. I can’t even find a picture of this beer.  It was another great choice. The board told me it was an APA.  I’m assuming that stands more for an American Pale Ale.  It wasn’t as hoppy as my previous beer, but it had a descent amount of hops and a really good finish to it. After finishing this one, Ivan had told me to come back because he had something special for me.  He retrieved a bottle from the back fridge and explained it was his favorite so we were going to have to share it.    He brought out a bottle of Loverbeer – Marche’l Re.  This beer was clearly the darkest beer I had in all of Italy.  It poured out an extremely dark coffee color and tasted exactly as expected.  It had deep coffee and chocolate notes and just a hit of pepper at the end.  I loved it, and he gave it to me on the house.  If you’re ever in Rome, make sure you find Fud and Bir.

All in all, it was a great trip.  Italy has a far more complex beer scene than I was expecting, but you do have to search for it.