Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Indica, Lost Coast Brewery

Mysticism is the idea that truth or understanding can be attained via subjective means.  One way to think of it is as Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.”  Always go with the gut because books lie!  Another way to think of it is as a complement to concrete knowledge.  Much like Kierkegaard’s kennenschaft, implying discovery through personable intuition.  Or as any writer who tells you fiction is really nonfiction because it documents the human condition.  The bottle today’s beer comes in describes its aroma as mystic.  That’s not a common word used for the chemical compounds that waft from a glass of beer, but it very well could be merely a function of the India motif their label is going for.  Indica is an IPA so they’ve taken the I from the acronym and jumped on the western association of Hinduism with mysticism.  This association probably stems from the religion’s view of widely disseminated truth.  “May good thoughts come to us from all sides” being a common prayer.  Also because yoga and reincarnation can conflict with the dualism imparted on western religions by Greek philosophers.  I doubt the hops in Lost Coast Brewery’s Indica will unite my atman with the One, but maybe it can align my chakras or something like that.

Indica, Lost Coast Brewery
Orange and cloudy.  Perfect IPA.

That mystical aroma is pretty leafy, but the bulk of the flavor doesn’t hit you until it’s in your mouth.  Another more colloquial usage of the word comes to mind.  That of something mysterious.  As in, where did Lost Coast get the zip file to transport such a hoppy flavor without puckering my face into oblivion?  It may even be on par with the inexplicably large cheese flavor in cheez-its.  Usually with a beer this bitter, my tongue would be having to brace itself for the onslaught of each sip.  Instead that aforementioned leafiness evenly distributes itself between my mouth and my stomach.  Good guy Indica gives you the hops you want without punching you in the face.

Perhaps this is the mysticism referred to on the label.  You can know there’s more to hops than bitterness and floral tones.  You can find beers with lots of IBUs that don’t shrivel your face.  But until you’ve experienced a beer that can deliver lots of bitter hops while simultaneously sidestepping lots of bitter hops, you can’t really know.  It’s a paradox of zymurgy.  Maybe I’m just overreacting.  Maybe I like beer too much to be objective.  Maybe I’ve just had too much.  What I do know is that my experience in this moment, as subjective as I must concede it is, is unquestionably positive.  Mystic, even.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Satin Solitude, Central Waters Brewing Company

Today’s beer comes from a brewery that strives to be green.  Central Waters Brewing Company sources most of their ingredients from local producers, going as far as founding a coop to meet demand.  They’ve switched to efficient light bulbs with motion sensors to automatically turn off when no one’s there.  They’ve even installed solar arrays to heat their water and provide 20% of their electricity.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find Jimmy Carter wandering the brewhouse in his signature cardigan turning down all the thermostats.  While green politics were unable to take root in the 1970s U.S., businesses like Central Waters are picking up the fight.  A local brewpub owner once ticked through a plethora of green techniques and policies he had in place despite having only one location at the time.  So much for the “environmentalism kills small business” trope.  Anyway, lets move on to the beer.  We can determine if the focus on greening has taken their eye off the ball.  I give you Satin Solitude.
So satiny.  So alone.

As the beer exits the bottle and falls through the air it looks brown, but once it has settled into its new home it is pretty darn close to black.  Good.  I like the dark ones.  The aroma hints this may go coffee on me but doesn’t assure it.  My tongue is a bit more confident.  The coffee notes do not dominate the game, leaving room for others like cream and small doses of carbon.  I can kind of see where the Satin in the name comes from.  The mouthfeel masks the alcohol bite so that this 7.5% stout feels not a point over, say, 6.8%.  Small change but noticeable nonetheless.  Other reviewers have mentioned this beer is a bit thin for an imperial stout.  I wouldn’t say that.  Not every stout is Old Rasputin.  Get over it.  Always remember that each beer style contains a diverse set of brews.  Satin Solitude takes a slightly less bombastic approach and rocks it.  So what if it’s not as thick?  If I want a second one, I can have it.  Try drinking multiples of the far end of the imperial stout spectrum.  I find assessing beers by their own merits leads to more enjoyable drinking.

Well, for Central Water Brewing Company at least, a focus on being green has definitely not detracted from the quality of the tipple.  Perhaps they can serve as an inspiration for us all.  Maybe we can reduce our carbon footprint without reducing our standard of living after all.  If the beer is good we might not mind even if we did have to sacrifice a few luxuries.  Here’s to good environmental stewardship and good beer!  Can we have both?

Si se puede!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Leffe Brune

Zythology is funky sounding word.  One of those words you really only ever use to make yourself sound smarter than you are.  So it peaked my interest when I saw it on the website of today’s beer.  You are invited to become a zythologist by touring the Leffe brewery in Dinant, Belgium.  It’s appearance seemed oddly familiar and as I read further, that familiarity only grew.  I had seen this pathos heavy rhetoric somewhere else…  A few minutes later I got my answer, AB-InBev.  I should have known!  Almost everything they publish uses the exact same writing style and graphic design in the aim of eliciting feelings of vague excitement and pristine cleanliness.  This bottle of Leffe Brune may have been brought to me by the “King of Beers,” but it still sports a claim to the year 1240.  Lets see if tradition trumps modernity.

Leffe Brune
So far so good.
Well, looks solid.  I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but when held against strong light, that darkness reveals itself to be a delightful ruby.  Smells just right for a Belgian Abbey ale too, sweet with a tiny hint of the toasty notes found in the darker malts.  Heck, the head even did that thing where it recedes from the edges of the glass but continues to poof up in the middle.

Ooh, ich mag es so gern!

I like the flavor, which seems a slightly more astringent version of your standard British or American Brown Ale.  Or I guess it would be more accurate to say the British and American types are slightly less astringent versions of Leffe Brune.  The mouthfeel is fairly smooth with only a little sharpness perhaps from the yeast variety.  Or maybe it’s the hops.  Or the water.  What do you think I am, a zythologist?  But seriously, it either the yeast or the malt if they used chocolate or coffee.  It’s hard to say.

I wasn’t around to taste the beer in 1240, but my guess is that tradition has trumped modern capitalism in this case.  Leffe Brune strikes me as a very European beer from the bottle to the finish.  Definitely one I’ll be remembering. Maybe I should stop by Dinant for that brewery tour. Looks like it's hosted in a beautiful space. Also quite European.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bedlam!, Ale Asylum

Today’s beer is described by its makers in avant garde terms.  “Chaos as art” is apparently its motto.  The brewery’s web page for it is mostly a copied and pasted entry from beeradvocate  where a user waxes poetic over astronautical rhetoric.  I’m imagining a barley and hops Jackson Pollock or Reggie Watts.  That sounds good to me.  Artistic expressions that stretch your mind can be quite pleasing.  But they can also go overboard.  Think of the enjoyable dissonance of Bartok on one hand and phrase words of annoyance reordering a randomly the on the other.  The question is which one this beer will be.  So as your beer blog curator, I present to you Ale Asylum’s Bedlam!.

Nice deep orange color!

The bottle claims the citra hops and belgian yeast create notes of summer fruits.  Even though that’s a common term used by a lot of breweries and reviewers, I’m not quite sure which fruits specifically count as summer fruits.  And what’s the alternative?  Winter fruits?  I'll have to look into it. Anyway, if that term refers to oranges and grapefruits, then it’s right on. Maybe a hint of apricot as well.  The taste doesn’t immediately strike me as being particularly chaotic, but not because its component parts do not clash.  The single minded hops of the IPA side and the nutty curveballs of the Belgian side are diametrically opposed.  But instead of spinning off each other into an ambiguous cloud of cognitive dissonance, they seem to bore directly into one another and cancel each other out.  It’s like the airborne streaks of paint of the aforementioned Pollock just happened to fall into the outline of a Hirst.  You’ve got random streaks of paint, but the big picture is of monochromatic dots.

As far as where Bedlam! falls in the avant garde, my mind likes the task of dissecting all its moving parts but unfortunately my stomach sees it as the annoying reordered words.  Out-there art can be good for the brain.  However, beer ultimately gets processed by a dumb mass of cells limited to chemical reactions and pressure variances as a means of communication.  Physiological forums are not particularly ponderous.

Update! Apparently there are winter fruits. And spring fruits and autumn fruits. Who knew? Aside from millions of people all over the world, that is. Oranges fall into winter and spring but grapefruit and apricot are summer. Two out of three isn't too bad, right?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shiner Bock, Spoetzl Brewery

I recently watched a short documentary called “How Beer Saved the World.”  This film contained a lot of interesting information, but it wrapped it all in the overly dramatic cliches of adult educational programming.  Every piece of trivia was shockingly revealed to you between three and five times by a host of experts causing you more to question their academic professionalism than to better absorb the lesson.  The music made each event in the history of beer sound on par with man learning to walk upright.  One speaker even suggested abandoning BC and AD for BB (Before Beer) and AB (After Beer).  That AB was the closest it ever came to mentioning a company other than MillerCoors (corporate sponsorship anyone?).  Of course the biggest cliche was all the secularised “sunday school questions” where the answer was invariably “beer.”  Come on, at least the little church going kindergarteners have to choose between “Jesus” and “God.”  As painful as it was to watch, this film was produced for a syndicated cable channel.  So obviously there’s money to be made here.  Maybe I should give it shot…

Texas is well known for cowboys, steak houses and capital punishment, but it also has a long history of something else.  Something liquid.  Something alcoholic.  Beer.  In the small town of Shiner, mere hours from the Mexican border, the brave men of Spoetzl Brewery create a famous bock.  But bock is a German style.  Yes that’s right.  This part of Texas was settled by Germans.  Germans who brought something with them.  Something bubbly.  Something very valuable.  Beer.  These industrious men and women built a society from nothing in a strange land surrounded by foreign people.  But they could never forget where they came from.  They sowed barley and transplanted hops so they could make something better than water.  Something older than the wheel.  Something with the power to save millions of lives.  Beer.  Their descendants have continued the legacy.  They have courageously toiled for over a century in back breaking labor to produce something delicious.  Something malty.  Something that saves a baby from a burning house every week as a warm up before flying all over the world to fight crime and drop jobs down people’s chimneys.  Spoetzl Brewery’s Shiner Bock.

Shiner Bock
Lovely ruby hues.

Okay, so we’ve got one of those quickly dissipating heads here.  Within about a minute it’s pretty much gone.  Noisy little guy too.  Kind of like rice crispies right after you add the milk to the bowl.  I love the color and clarity.  It’s simplicity seems like a visual approximation of the aroma.  The flavor quickly follows suit leading me to question why this has been labelled as a bock.  It tastes more like a pilsner with just enough darker grain to affect the appearance.  Bock may be an odd choice to describe this brew, but bock is an odd choice for a hot climate such as Southeast Texas.  If you approach it from the direction of the standard American Pilsner, it becomes a pretty tasty alternative to the big boys.  It also helps you feel better about the thin, highly carbonated mouthfeel and faintly acetic tones.  Bottom line, save this one for those hot summer days when you’re not particularly in the mood for sweets.

Oh yeah, I stopped writing in the superlative infotainment style.  I just couldn’t keep it going.  I guess I’m just too deadly serious about my passion.  Not able to crack jokes about this momentous invention.  This magical, life giving, evil defeating beverage.  This stepping stone from neolithic cave men to masters of nature, the universe and everything!

I mean beer!