“Interestingly, a couple of big light beer makers appear to be attempting to lure guys with technology. Coors Light’s “Super Cold Activation” lets drinkers know when their beer stops being merely “cold” and becomes, uh, “super cold.””
I have a better idea – just make better beer. The percentage of craft beer drinkers rising to 15% from 13% the year before isn’t because marketing is somehow failing mass-brewers, it’s changing because — as with every retail category — consumers are now more informed and conscious of their purchasing decisions than ever before. As beer drinkers continue to educate themselves about their brews, the different styles, how they’re made and even how to pair with food, the less they’re going to be seduced by something generic that is “uh, ‘super cold’”
If you like mass American Adjunct Lagers, all the power to you, but I am always pleased by news that beer drinkers continue to become more savy and that craft beer is gaining market share. Cheers to this trend continuing.
Bear Republic Brewing Co.; Red Rocket Ale (ABV 6.8%)
American Red Ales are a very popular style for American microbrewers and come in many different shapes in sizes. Some of my favorite US brewers – Stone, Tröegs, Lagunitas – all have spectacular examples in their portfolio.
As to be expected, the beer poured with deep red, slightly cloudy with a light tan head. The nose was complex and had a bit going on with well-balanced sweet hops and with lightly toasted caramel balancing it. The mouthfeel was pretty big but justified for the higher alcohol content.
While I mostly enjoyed this beer, there was a slight bitterness that lingered and didn’t go away for me. Still, I would certainly order one again.
Nová Paka Brewery; BrouCzech Dark (ABV 5%)
This beer is from the small independent Nová Paka brewery in the Czech Republic. Not widely available in the US, I was excited to get my hands on a bottle of this Euro dark lager (for reference, Beck’s Dark is one of the more mainstream beers of this style).
The beer had a deep, cloudy amber color with a tan, frothy head. Spicy slightly-roasted caramel nose. On the lighter side of a medium bodied beer, but well-rounded and not thin. Light mouthfeel with a slight hint of fruitiness at first. The darker, lightly bitter notes remained as the flavor dissipates.
While not the most exciting styles for me, this is certainly one of the better Euro dark lagers I’ve had.
Keegan Ales; Mother’s Milk Stout (ABV 5% estimated)
This beer came to me with high recommendations from one of my distributor friends, so I was excited to dig into it.
This is an opaque, black stout with a dark brown head. The nose was of toasted malt, with no bitterness. Taste was semi-creamy as expected. The milkiness of the beer is finished with a slight coffee taste. Pretty straightforward; just the way it is described.
I would be interested to have this beer poured from a nitro system to really bring out the creaminess of this style. Regardless, this was an enjoyable, slowly sip-able brew.
Lake Placid Pub and Brewery; Ubu Ale (ABV 7%)
The flagship product for Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, their Ubu Ale is brewed in the style of an English Strong Ale. Exhibited a dark tan color, which was almost opaque unless held directly to light. A frothy head came out toward the end of the pour. Quite a bit of lacing as it settled.
Nose was strong with the toasted malts, and spicy with a faint hint of dark chocolate. Medium bodied, and a little creamy at first. Quite a bit of dry hop bitterness coming through as the beer finished. As the hops come out more strongly, the body leaves almost completely. Again, the carbonation added to the creaminess.
I enjoyed this beer, but am somewhat surprised that it has such a high ABV. It didn’t seem quite big enough to balance that much alcohol, especially as the taste finished. I have a feeling that too many of these would be too much.
Ringwood Brewery via Shipyard Brewing Co.; Old Thumper Extra Special Ale (ABV 5.6%)
This beer was originally created in 1979 and is primarily brewed by Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire, England. However in 1994 it was licensed for brewing and sale in the US by Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland, Oregon.
The pour was light, pale, and slightly cloudy with lots of lacing. Nose was hoppy, but not too strong with a slight fruity bread scent. Mostly what one should would expect from this style of extra special bitter (ESB) ale when well-balanced. While the hops are present as the beer rolls off, they never become too bitter.
This was an excellent beer and very representative of the qualities that I personally enjoy in a beer. I could pull one of these out anytime.
Arcadia Ales IPA (ABV 6%)
I wasn’t familiar with this Michigan brewer, and after admitting this to one of my distributor friends, he promptly brought me their IPA (he also knew that I’m an IPA drinker, so it was a good move on his part).
Pours and looks just like I would expect an IPA to look. Light frothy head, slightly cloudy, pale color with a hint of the orange spectrum. The nose is also what I expect from an IPA, except while I can pick up on bitter notes in the hops, the citrus notes are surprisingly strong. The taste was big and round. As in the nose, the citrus notes are pretty explosive up front, but balance out and finish with the hops.
This was an excellent beer. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try it out and I will be adding this to my list of favored IPAs.
Lion Brewery Ceylon; Lion Stout (ABV 8.8%)
I found quite a few things about this beer to be interesting before I even had my first sip. This beer is from Sri Lanka, brewed by Lion Brewery Ceylon – originally founded as Ceylon Brewery in 1881 – and is owned by the Carlsburg Group as of 1996. According the to the Carlsburg Group website, “Lion Brewery operates in a market dominated by spirits – which account for 93% of the alcohol volume consumed.” Of the remaining market share, “Lion Brewery is the market leader with a share of 86%. All five brands in its portfolio – Lion Lager, Carlsberg, Carlsberg Special Brew, Lion Stout and Strong Beer – have a substantial market share. However, the extremely high excise tax on beer means Sri Lankan consumers are moving towards spirits.” …all interesting fun-facts about Sri Lanka should you have a vacation coming up.
The beer poured dark. I like to pour heavy to get a better nose from a thicker head, but this one bounced back more than expected with quite a bit of carbonation. Next time I will pour a little more lightly. At 8.8% this is a pretty big beer. Tasting, more of that toasted malt which is well balanced with the hops. I also picked up slight hints of coffee and coco, but not very strong; overall this was a very smoky stout.
Despite packaging that looks like off-brand malt liquor, this is a sophisticated stout and I recommend giving it a try.
Cigar City Brewing; Maduro Brown Ale (ABV 5.5%)
From Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, FL comes Maduro (Oatmeal) Brown Ale. I put oatmeal in parenthesis because while this referred by the company as an “oatmeal ale” and is know on the street as such, nowhere on the bottle does it say that. It’s simply named a “Brown Ale.”
Loved the nose. Spicy, caramel, light oatmeal and clove-like creaminess. So dark brown, almost opaque. When I held it directly up to light, you could see that it was quite cloudy with very fine sediment swirling around.
The taste is usually where brown ales fall apart for me, but this beer maintained a medium-light body and had almost a Guinness-like creaminess to it. Tasted like it smelled, but finished very light and crisp as I usually expect from this style.
According to Cigar City’s website, “Maduro pairs well with hearty Cuban foods such as Ropa Vieja and Boliche and it makes a fine accompaniment to a premium cigar.” …personally, I’ll skip the cigar and just enjoy the beer.