Archive for the ‘Beer’ category

Winter Style Beers: Anchor Christmas

January 9, 2008


I feel a bit the fraud after reading my last couple of beer reviews. I really don’t know how to sound all professional and thorough when talking about beer so I cribbed words like “mouthfeel.” (Whatever the hell that means.) I really just like talking about stuff that I like, so my goal here to to transmit my beer going experiences over the blog. With luck, my taste lexicon will grow as I write, but from here on I will try to be more honest instead of striving to sound pompous.

The Anchor Christmas Ale is the last of the Winter beer that I’ll be talking about on the blog for the next year or so. It was poured at refrigerator temp into a standard pint. My first impression was the malt; this thing is like a beer milkshake. Prior to this, I associated malt with a lack of hops instead of its own entity. The Anchor Christmas cured me of this misconception. The hops are still detectable, but very mellow and smooth. There was none of the spikiness of the other two Winter beers, even at refrigerator temps.

There are all sorts of spice flavors and notes to this beer, it was highly reminiscent of mulled cider without the apple. It was excellent with my father-in-law’s fruitcake and I imagine it would go well with gingerbread snaps too. Sweeter cookies were a bit much for this beer. Where the Wassail’s hops balanced the more sugary sweets well, the Anchor offering just doesn’t mix well with them.

There was a metallic aftertaste in the 2 bottles that I tried that I hope is a quality issue specific to my six pack instead of an intended flavor. The metallic taste isn’t overpowering, but it is mildly unpleasant. As the beer warmed the aftertaste became more pronounced, which is unfortunate as the other desirable spice flavors also became more noticeable at these warmer temps.

This is an excellent and accessible Winter Style beer, even with the slight metallic aftertaste. When served cold and paired with some moderately sweet cookies or sweets, the aftertaste pretty much goes away and it can be recommended without reservation.


Beer and Cheese Pairing: Round 1

January 3, 2008


I’ve heard that beer and cheese pairings could work better than cheese and wine. Figuring that New Year’s Eve was a good time to test this theory, I stopped by our local carry out on my way home from work to grab a few brews to match some cheese we had around the house. Here is a bonus pro tip; if your town only has one liquor store, it’s going to be crowded at 6 PM on New Year’s Eve. After an hour in line, I was ready to make my way home. Here is what we had to work with.

Beers: Goose Island 312, Stone IPA, He’Brew 11th Anniversary Brown

Wine: Semi Sweet Gewürztraminer from the Finger Lakes region of NY

Food: Apple, pear, fresh mozzarella marinated in olive oil, mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, pepper cheese curd, Havarti, and goat cheese

Mary and I didn’t follow any particular order or method to our testing. The delay at the Liquor store had left us both famished, so the initial tastings more resembled the actions of starving dogs rather than the efforts of civilized humans. Thankfully Mary’s scientific training kicked in and she took copious notes.

Top Match: He’Brew 11’th Anniversary Brown and Sharp Cheddar. The 4 year old cheddar and the hoppy, nutty brown ale worked wonderful together. The cheddar was served in a sandwich in combination with an unsalted pretzel and a thin slice of apple.

The IPA and the goat cheese also worked well together. Stone’s IPA is one of the milder beers of that style that I’ve encountered. The bitter flowery beer complimented the pungent Silver Goat brand cheese quite well.

Goose Island 312 American Wheat wasn’t bad with the Havarti or the fresh mozzarella, but a Belgium style wit might have done better. The 312 was very mild and tended to get dominated by all the cheeses that I had. It may have done better with a mozzarella that was not marinated in herbs and olive oil as even those flavors bowled the wheat over. A slice of apple with no cheese seemed to agree with this beer more than any of the other foods.

The pepper cheese curd was a bit too spicy for either beer, but the chilled Gewürztraminer provided an excellent complement. Once it warmed a touch, the Gewürztraminer also mixed very will with the olive and herb flavors in the marinated mozzarella.

In the future, I’ll not be so hungry before a tasting. We’ll also be sure to work out more of a system, starting with the milder cheeses and beers and working our way slowly towards the stronger fare. This experiment gives us a starting point for the future and hopefully we can come up with more combinations for the blog.

Winter Style Beers: Wassail

December 21, 2007

I poured the Full Sail’s Wassail at refrigerator temp into a my wide mouthed candle holder. (For those playing at home, my candle holder is the same approximate size and shape as a stemless pinot noir glass. One makes due with what one has on hand.) The color is a deep, deep amber. The nose reminds me of gingerbread cookies baking. There are plenty of sharp edges about the tongue with a rich malty finish that stays with you.

Feeling that I wasn’t doing the beer justice at refrigerator temp, I let it sit in the glass during our 40 minute Mana Tombs run. After warming up a touch, it was like having a different beer. The sharp spiky hops mellowed out and the cinnmon and ginger became much more noticeable without being cloying. We tried the orange spritzer trick again with great results. This beer tastes amazing with buttery sweet cookies, resulting in one of those 1+1 = 3 experiences. The look on my wife’s face was priceless! The beer that was far too bitter for her 40 minutes earlier had become delicious at a few degrees warmer and with a cookie. It seemed to clash with the buckeyes, so I would avoid pairing with most salty foods. I’ll have to update the post after giving this a try with dark chocolate.

I recommend this one to anybody with even a passing interest in darker beers. Try not to serve too cold or you could turn off people that don’t enjoy the hoppy flavor. Pair with any buttery cookie that isn’t too sweet. Sugar cookies are a go, but you may want to avoid the frosted variety. Try not to pair with sweets or cookies that have a lot of ingredients as it may clash with this complex brew. (Chocolate may be a go, but not chocolate with nuts, and coconuts.) It tasted just fine in a wide mouthed glass and in a standard pint.

If you’ve got some time to spend on a beer, Full Sail’s Wassail is a good investment.

Winter Style Beers: Snow Cap

December 21, 2007

Snow Cap with Orange Spritzer

I’ve recently tried 3 winter beers: Coors’ Full Moon, Pyramid’s Snow Cap, and Full Sail’s Wassail. I’ll start this series out with Pyramid’s offering and try to post about the other two later this week.

Pyramid’s Snow cap has the least spicy flavor of the three, a deep red color, and exceedingly hoppy taste. If you’re in the market for an IPA but crave a change of pace, this might be the winter beer for you. There is a hint of cherry and a bit of molasses, but those notes are crushed under the bitterness of the hops. A cookie seems to offset this bitterness and bring out the beer’s sweeter side. Mary’s orange spritzer worked quite well in this regard. Slightly warmer temperatures and a wide mouth glass seem to also soften out the edges. Twenty minutes or so after the poor, a little sweetness comes to the fore and the hops mellow out. This may be the perfect winter beer for those that stick mainly with the IPA’s as it is simple, bitter and highly drinkable. Keep it away from those that like their beer without the bite, though.