Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Starr Hill's Grateful Pale Ale is not bad. It pours yellow/orange, not much head. The aroma is mild grassy hops and malt, and that’s the flavor, too. A little more burn in the finish than I expected. There are better pale ales that are more affordable, and that is the main thing Grateful Pale Ale has going against it. But it isn't bad.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm not the biggest fan of Williamsburg Alewerks, and their Tavern brown ale hasn't changed that. This beer is OK, but a little disappointing. It pours dark brown with a persistent ring of foam. I liked the aroma better as it warmed and gingerbread and cloves showed up. But this beer smells better than it tastes. The flavor is a little muted. A little synthetic. There's just nothing there on the front, but at the swallow there is a little malt and spice. No real change on the tongue as it warmed. Not bad, but not a beer I want to have again.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils is not an aggressive beer at all. It pours yellow, as advertised, with average head. The aroma is mild. There’s a little bit of a sweet lemon thing, but not a lot else. The flavor is really mild. Probably too delicate for my blunt palate. A little malt and a little tingle, and it’s gone. I didn't dislike it, but I can't say it really grabbed me, either.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher is a hell of an imperial stout. It pours blacker than a trademark attorney's soul, with a brown/maroon head. Lots of lace throughout this one. The body is thick and oily, and the aroma is that of a classic imperial stout. Gigantic malt, bitter chocolate, espresso and alcohol (10% ABV). The flavor is complex and delicious, with all the notes you'd expect in a beer like this. More of that chocolate and espresso, and anise and dark bread and smokey tones. The easy availability of beer like this makes it hard to shed tears about how difficult it is to find Bourbon County and the like.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rogue's Buckwheeat Ale is pretty good. It pours a cloudy, light rust color with a little head and lace. The aroma has mild cereal grains and hops. The flavor is malty, a little nutty, with a mild note of vanilla at the finish.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Devil's Backbone's Striped Bass Pale Ale is a little off. It isn't just the name, either, which I think is uncomfortably close to a popular old import. There's also something in the taste that isn't quite right.

From the can, this ale pours a very bright, clear, pale amber. There is a little head and a lot of crackling carbonation. Grassy, musty hops in the nose. The flavor isn't great. Not bad, but not great. Slightly sweet at the front, then tart hops in the finish. Unfortunately there is also something metallic in the finish. Sulfuric, maybe. Maybe it's because this beer was out of a can, but I doubt it. That aftertaste wasn't just in my head, though, I'm sure. There is something in the close here that I didn't enjoy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

This shit isn't funny anymore.

My foray into supermarket beers officially ends tonight, with a review of the most godawful, undrinkable glass of swill that has ever been served to anyone in my house. And I served it to myself. I have no one else to blame. I don't know if I really even need to write a review of Icehouse lager. I could probably get away with just posting a popular internet meme:

But I'm going to review it. I'm going to review it, and I'm going to refer to this review every time I think it might be fun to drink and review bottom-shelf beer, and hopefully I will remember the way I feel right now and never do this again.

Icehouse is the worst thing I have ever experienced. The list of the worst things I've ever experienced, with number one listed last, is now as follows:

  • PCP hallucinations
  • Divorce
  • Bladder cancer
  • The movie Battle Los Angeles
  • Icehouse

  • It’s almost like this beverage is an outright act of hostility on the part of MillerCoors. I don't know whether to recoil at it's viciousness or marvel at it's efficiency. This beer is wrong on every level.

    Icehouse even manages to be ugly to look at. It pours piss yellow with a few splotches of foam that look a bit bacterial. I felt like I should get a test-tube full of it and have my local extension agent test it for fecal run-off water. And as ugly as it is to look at, it's even uglier to smell. The aroma is like some unholy mixture of a little paint thinner, a little vinegar, and a lot of water. The thing is, there is hardly any aroma there, so you have to really inhale and get a snoot-full to smell it at all. And then, once you do, getting the smell out of your nose is just awful. Once when I was a kid, a raw chicken slipped out of a grocery bag and got under the back seat of my mother's Ford Escort. A couple of days later that car smelled like what I'd imagine Ozzy Osbourne's taint must smell like. Icehouse smells worse than that.

    Actually drinking this stuff is an exercise in asceticism. It’s like scourging one’s own palate. I don't even know how to describe it. I'm going to have to try to conjure up something figurative. OK, it's like this... It’s like if you boiled brussels sprouts and let the water sit in the pot out on your porch all day, and then put it in the fridge for a while, and then tried to "enjoy" it.

    Icehouse is not suitable to use for drowning rats.

    I hereby pronounce this grocery-store beer experiment over. I have gone too far, and for too little. Tomorrow I will return to my most-local craft beer shop and stock up on favorites, regional start-ups, and seasonal brews. I'm sure, if nothing else, I will appreciate them more than ever.
    I'm writing this review mostly for myself. You might want to skip it.

    When I was a child, I had only a vague idea about what beer even is. I was raised in a strict, Southern Baptist home, and there just wasn't a lot of drinking going on. I did have a few uncles and neighbors who'd drink beer occasionally, though. So I knew that beer was something that was for adults, and I didn't want it anyway, because it stunk. I knew that if you drank much beer, you'd start acting silly. And I knew that if you drank too much beer, you had to go outside and walk around for awhile, and then you had to go stand behind the truck and throw up, and then you had to come back inside and go to bed.

    The rest of what I knew about beer, I knew entirely from beer commercials. I was aware that there were different beer brands, and that different beers were for different purposes. I knew that some beers were for good friends to share on nights that were kinda special. I knew that some beer was to be imbibed during or after robust, outdoor activities. I knew that certain brands of beer were made for pretty people to drink on the weekend. And I knew that some beer inspired polarizing arguments between friends. To me, these commercials were cryptic, magical messages about what adulthood was like for the rest of the world. I'd watch these commercials and imagine how the rest of the world, all around my rural Virginia home, was full of good-looking, interesting adults. Adults who liked to drink beer and argue and sing and go fishing, and who never threw up behind a truck.

    There was one beer that stood out from the others, though. Judging by it's commercials, there was one beer that was so strange, so completely indescribable, that the only way to convey it's effect on the human condition was with the image of a rampaging bull that tore down walls and sent people running in terror:

    Those Schlitz Malt Liquor commercials were ubiquitous during my childhood. There must have been a couple dozen of these commercials, but they were cookie-cutter one-act man-against-nature melodramas. Each commercial featured someone who was happy and looking to celebrate a recent accomplishment of some sort. In each commercial, the happy guy would ask a bartender or waiter to bring him a celebratory beer, only to be encouraged by friends to instead have a Schlitz Malt Liquor. "Don't say beer," the friends would shout, "say Bull!" And each commercial ended with the celebrant ordering a Schlitz Malt Liquor, only to have the entire establishment destroyed, in an act of spontaneous violence, by a furious, wild-eyed, wall-busting bull. The bull would appear from out of nowhere, apparently called forth like a demon by the first sip of Schlitz, and its path of destruction would always send everyone into a blind, primal panic.

    I'd watch these commercials and think, holy shit! If regular beer causes people to act silly and then puke, what must Schlitz Malt Liquor do to people? I always imagined people waking up after one glass of the stuff to find themselves surrounded by dust and rubble and sirens and the wailing of the innocent. And I never, until tonight, had the guts to try the stuff.

    Tonight, one more childhood wonder has fallen by the wayside.

    Schlitz Malt Liquor, it turns out, is just another highly carbonated, yellow, foamy American beer. It's almost indistinguishable from any other mass-produced, adjunct corn lager. Now, it might be entirely in my mind, but I do have to say that I picked up on a little more alcohol in the aroma and in the flavor. The can says it's 5.9% ABV, so I guess it's a hair higher than the other convenience store beers, but not in the same league as some of the stuff they seem to be marketing to fratboys these days. There's nothing noteworthy in the flavor, other than that hint of alcohol. There's corn, and more corn, and that's all. There does appear to be a slight... very slight ... bit of alcohol vapor at the end of the sip. It evaporates as quickly as the aroma and flavor, taking all of that artifact childhood fascination into the ether with it. This is a can of empty promises, and it ought to be regurgitated behind a truck.

    I won't be having Schlitz Malt Liquor again. Not because it doesn't smell good, and not because it doesn't taste very good, and not because it's boring. All of that is true, don't get me wrong. But the reason I won't be having it again is because of what the actual experience of drinking it does to my childhood. The Schlitz Malt Liquor bull did not materialize in a cloud of cinder-block-dust and horror when I took my first sip. The foundation of my home remains in tact tonight. No one on Donovan Street was sent, terrified, into the recesses of the night. The only thing torn down by this beer, once again, was my lingering hope that "adulthood" is waiting, just on the other side of the wall.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    I haven't got anything to say about Heineken lager that I haven't already said about other bright yellow, fizzy lagers. Heineken swears it is brewed with 100% barley, and I'll take their word for it. But the flavor and aroma aren't much different at all from other corn-based beer. It is a little sweeter tasting, so there is that. It's slightly more viscous, too, in terms of mouthfeel. But the flavor is no more interesting, and the overall quality is no more enjoyable, than Fosters or Peroni or anything by Red Hook, etc, etc, etc.

    I got the idea to review grocery store beers a few weeks ago, mostly out of nostalgia. I haven't tasted most of this stuff in more than twenty years. But I've just about got it out of my system. There's just so little going on here, and so little to write about.

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    Harpoon Brewing's UFO isn't much of a hefeweizen. It's coudy yellow. The head doesn’t linger at all. The aroma is lacking, but it’s still better than the flavor. At least there is a little citrus and malt in the aroma. The flavor starts watery and finishes the same way. There’s just little tingle in the aftertaste. It doesn’t have much taste at all, but at least it dosen’t taste bad.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Magic Hat is an OK brewery, but nothing they've done has blown me away. I liked Dream Machine, which they bill as an "India Pale Lager," but which I'd think of as a hoppier-than-most pislner. It pours a clear, bright amber color with not much foam. The aroma is floral hops. There is a decent malt quality up front in the flavor, and then tingle and a dry finish. This is a pretty OK beer.

    By reviewing Jim Beam Bourbon, I'm more or less just padding the blog. But I do drink it, so I may as well review it.

    It's good for shots. That's about all. And that's all I use it for. Shots aren't something I drink for pleasure, either. I only do shots medicinally. A couple of shots help me sleep at night, and I hate to waste a really good whiskey on shots. If it's good, I'd rather sit and sip it and enjoy it. Doing shots with Maker's Mark seems like throwing money down the drain.

    Jim Beam tastes minty and ... well, appropriately medicinal ... if I sit and sip it. It's not much more fun than sipping NyQuil. But if you keep it ice cold (and I do), it isn't bad for shots. Tip up the shot glass and knock it back quickly, and the aftertaste has a vague caramel quality. It isn't bad, there's no grimace, no eyes watering... just a little burn, a little caramel, a little vapor on the exhale, and you're done. Repeat as needed and curl up for, hopefully, a decent night's sleep.

    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    I'm kinda sheepish about reviewing whiskey at this blog. Reviewing beer is easy. Well, if not easy, reviewing beer is at least inconspicuous. I'm only one more of a billion hipster asshole geeks ranting about beer on the internet, so if nothing else, at least I blend into the din. And there are an estimated sixty-eleven new craft breweries popping up in this country every week, so there is no shortage of beer for us assholes to rant about. I mean, why not ramble about beer on the internet at this point?

    But whiskey ... whiskey is something else. My perception of whiskey is that there are two kinds: the swill and the sublime. The swill isn't worth reviewing, and the sublime is worth reviewing damn well. If you're going to talk about good whiskey, you ought to know what you're talking about.

    There's the rub. All I can really tell you about whiskey is what I like. And, besides, I'm a lot more conservative about whiskey than I am about beer. I don't try new stuff that often, and when I do, I try to sample it several times before I even consider writing anything about it.

    I am surprised, though, that it has taken me this long to write a review of Maker's Mark Kentucky Bourbon, my go-to bourbon and something that has become a staple 'round these parts. Maker's Mark is the whiskey that made me like whiskey in the first place, so I should have reviewed it some time ago.

    Unlike the medicinal, minty cheap stuff that was once all I knew of bourbon, Maker's Mark is just a delight to sip. It's smooth and sweet, but very balanced. The aroma and the flavor are both outstanding, but there is enough difference between them to give this stuff some serious complexity. In the nose, Maker's Mark is all candy and fire. Vanilla and butterscotch notes dominate the aroma, along with vaporous booze.

    There is more sweet stuff in the flavor, but it's more complex. Caramel, honey, kind of a burnt creme brulee thing, and then this big, bold rush of oak and a heady blast of alcohol. The mouthfeel is just about perfect; it isn't thin, but it isn't cloying, either. Each sip hangs around just long enough, and each next sip is welcome.

    I'll probably never be a whiskey expert, I don't drink enough of it to talk about it with much authority at all. But I do know what I like. Templeton Rye is my favorite, and I'll order it when I have the option. But Maker's Mark is easier to find, and never a disappointment. I buy it when it's my best option, but I'd never say it's something I only settle for.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    With an apparently tongue-in-cheek name like Eurotrash, I don't think Southern Tier expects people to fall all over themselves praising their light, bright pilsner. And, it's not an amazing beer, not really even up to Southern Tier’s standards. But overall, it isn’t bad. Eurotrash pours really bright and clear, lots of carbonation, medium head. The aroma is mildly sweet and fruity. Mildness seems to be where pilsners register, or at least that is how they hit my palate . This one certainly is mild. The malt is sweet but not rich. It’s crisp. Thin. But I don’t mean to say this beer isn’t enjoyable. It’s pretty OK.

    Once, when I was a kid (I'm talking 21, maybe 22 years old), me and a buddy got a six-pack of Peroni. I think that was the only time I'd had it prior to today. At the time, we thought we were really getting something special, since at the time we were used to drinking a lot of Coors and Busch and (I'm not proud of this) occasionally Olympia. When we picked up that six-pack of Peroni, we thought we were getting some fine, grade-A, high-class imported shit.

    Flash forward to today. More time has passed since that day than I had been alive up until then. I've just had my first bottle of Peroni in all that time, and it's one of the worst things I've ever tasted. It pours Mountain Dew yellow with a lot of carbonation, but absolutely no head. It smells like corn. Tastes like corn. I take that back. I occasionally enjoy an ear of corn on the cob. I did not enjoy this. This tastes like something you might piss after eating an ear of corn on the cob. I drank the whole thing just as some kind of penance. Some day I can stand before the Throne of Judgement and say "I know I deserve hell, Lord, but remember ... I did drink that whole bottle of Peroni, so, we square?"

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Blue Mountain Brewing's Evil 8° is brewed in the Abbey Dubbel style, but really is unique. Here's what the brewer says about it:
    Brewed in the Belgian Abbey style using caramelized biscuit malt, Goldings hops and a unique strain of brewer’s yeast. 19.3° Plato, 50 IBUs and 7.7% alcohol by volume.

    the beer pours chocolate brown with an average head/lace. The aroma has this spicy, sarsaparilla thing. Root beer and apple butter show up in the nose. More candy notes in the flavor. Molasses, horehound, biscuits ... flavors I associate with Granny's kitchen. The close is a really mellow, rich malt. Most dubbels are, to my taste, dominated by a similar yeast. Not this one. Blue Mountain doesn't seem to have been that worried about reverence with this beer. I like that.

    Saturday, April 12, 2014

    I've not had a Red Hook brew that I liked very much, but their Long Hammer IPA isn't bad. It pours kind of a hazy tangerine color and actually smells pretty good. Sort of a sweet, candied citrus aroma. The flavor is not as sweet, it has some hop bite, but it isn't very strong. Sort of watery. A little grassy, hop vapor in the finish. Not awful, but it never really takes off, ya know what I mean?

    Wychwood's Scarecrow is an organic pale ale. Here's the thing: I just don't like organic beer. I don't think I ever will. This one is not terrible but I didn't love it by any stretch of the imagination. It's burnt sienna in color, the head fades quickly. Strong smell of apples over top of that usual off-putting, sulphur-like organic thing. That sulphur is there in the flavor, too. It isn't quite enough to ruin it, but not by much. Slightly sweet. Not something I'll drink again.

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Everything about the packaging for Mountain State Brewing's Miner's Daughter Oatmeal Stout appealed to me. I don't spend a lot of time here praising labels, but I want to give this one its due. The artwork had an Appalachian motif that I liked a lot. It reminded me of some of my favorite music. Loretta Lynn's ubiquitous ode to a way of life almost certainly inspired the name of the stout, and those rugged miner's faces against the blood-red background brought to mind one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs. The font choices restated the theme. Everything about this label was homey and comforting to me.

    The beer itself is pretty good. It pours jet black with a small but stubborn head that hangs around and leaves some lace. The aroma is mild, but there is coffee and malt and a little burnt bread. The body is far lighter than many oatmeal stouts, and the flavor is decent to pretty good. Rich sweet coffee notes give way to a bit of hop bitterness in the finish. This is comparable to the Stockyard oatmeal stout at Trader Joe's, which is also pretty good. Neither is as good as the oatmeal stouts by Samuel Smith, New Holland, or Rogue. But this price I'd drink it again, and enjoy that label again.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Shiner White Wing Belgian style ale pours a clear, lemon yellow. The little bit of suds doesn't hang around long. Slightly grassy aroma, slightly tangy flavor with a muted, kinda sweet finish. There isn't much going on, here.

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    Samuel Adams Cold Snap is an indistinct wheat beer. It pours a hazy light orange with a brief head that quickly fades to leave no foam or lace. The aroma is mild. Thee is a little bit of citrus in the aroma, but not much at all to comment on. The flavor is inoffensive. Slightly buttery malt with a little hop twang at the finish.

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    I had Wild Wolf's Blonde Honey Ale on tap at Buffalo Wild Wings with lunch today. It was a really hazy, lemon yellow with an average to large, foamy head. The aroma was a lot like a Belgian; so much so that while I was drinking it, I was sure I was drinking a Belgian style ale (Ratebeer.com says it's actually a golden ale). There is a lot of fruity, slightly spicy tones. Bananas. Malt. A little citrus. But the flavor was really, really sweet. I thought it tasted far sweeter than the aroma implied. Typically, overly sweet beers aren’t my thing. But this brew was the perfect foil for my mango-habanero wings. I don’t know that I’d buy this beer to drink on it’s own, at home. But I’ll have it again when I go back to B-Dubs.

    I've been curious about Mike's Hard Lemonade ever since it first showed up on shelves some years ago. I do like good lemonade. I also like beer and booze. So I pondered this "hard lemonade" thing, and I wondered if Mike's was any good. Tonight I finally got curious enough to throw a bottle into a make-your-own six-pack at the grocery store. Now that I've had it, hell, man, I really don't know what to say about this stuff. It's not bad. I mean, it doesn't taste bad. It pours and smells and more or less tastes like soda. Maybe like Sprite if Sprite leaned a little to the lemon side instead of playing it straight down the middle of the lemon-lime line. But the whole time I was drinking this stuff, I wasn't even really thinking about it. I was really thinking about Deb's Frozen Lemonade, a local business in Roanoke that makes ... you guessed it, frozen lemonade. It's tasty, too. Deb's is good stuff. I used to like to stop by their Brambleton Avenue location now and then and get a large. It was always especially good on the hottest days. I wonder if that Brambleton location is still open? I haven't been by there in ages.

    Anyway, yeah, Mike's Hard Lemonade. Sure. Whatever.

    Stella Artois is an InBev grocery store beer I'd never bothered to try until tonight. Here's the thing; I'm getting close to 500 reviews at ratebeer.com, and at this point I'm pretty much drinking and reviewing anything so I can hit that milestone and just get it over with. So tonight I'm drinking crap. But there is worse crap out there than Stella Artois. According to Wikipedia, Stella is nicknamed "the wife-beater" in the UK, because there is a common conception that drinking too much of this beer causes violent behavior. Drinking this beer didn't make me want to beat anyone, but while I was consuming it I did tell my cat to shut the hell up, so there's that. I guess around these parts, Stella Artois will be nicknamed "the cat cusser."

    It isn’t terrible. I’ve had terrible beer, and this beer is not terrible. It pours a fizzy, bright, clear yellow. It smells like a corn based lager and it tastes like one, but there is just slightly more flavor here than most of the corn based junk. Maybe they’re using better corn. Maybe they’re using candy corn. I don’t know. I do know that I finished the glass, and I can’t say that about some expensive and popular micro-brews, so there’s that. The bottle is 11.2 ounces instead of 12. I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re skimping to pay for the extra paper on the neck of the bottle.