Belgian Pale Ales are something I've only started to really enjoy over the past year. The beer that convinced me I should drink more of this style was Poperings Hommel Bier. Since then I've been looking for other pale Belgian style ales with bright hops and sweet underpinnings. This Hommel Bier from Perenial in Saint Louis gives the style an American slant, with hops from the Pacific Northwest. It's evident when you drink this beer that it's hoppier and more bitter than something like Poperings, but shares a similar grain bill and yeast profile so you still get a touch of sweetness and a hint of Belgian character.
Helles beers are great in the summer. You can't enjoy a heavy stout in 90 degree weather as much as you can in the fall or winter. I believe all beers tastes the best during autumn, but that's another topic for another time... It's not quite 90 yet but it's definitely warm, it's also yard work season... which means it is high time I crack open my first Helles of the year. Schlafly recently rebranded its Helles Lager when it changed the packaging from bottles to cans. Their Summer Lager is essentially the exact same as before, except for the can of course. This also happens to be my first can of beer, not just of the season but in many years...
India Pale Ale. If ever there were a type of beer I hated hearing the name of more than "adjunct lager" it'd have to be IPA. There seem to be too many IPAs on the market already, but they just keep coming. At a certain point my tastebuds shut down and the only signal they send to my brain is, "well, it tastes like hops... that's about it." It's not that I hate the style, I just hate that it has become a game of one-upsmanship. Who really wins when you just cram more and more hops into a beer until that's all you can taste... I didn't finish that sentence with a question mark because I already know the answer. Just like my tastebuds, I've pretty much shut down when it comes to IPAs, I generally ignore them unless I have a good reason to remind myself what too much hops in a beer tastes like.
Cathedral Square is Missouri's newest brewery. Based out of Saint Louis, Cathedral Square actually contracts all of it's brewing through the Weston Brewing Company. Weston, which is north of Kansas City, isn't exactly known for putting out quality beers... I've heard the problem exists somewhere in the bottling line. Curious, why would anyone contract brew through a brewery that has such a bad track record? Don't as me, because it doesn't make any sense whatsoever...
I've had Schlafly's Christmas Ale a number of times over the past couple of years and I've come to an important conclusion, this beer is a million times better on tap. I don't want to make it sound like the Christmas Ale is bad when it's poured from a bottle, that isn't the case. What I mean is this beer goes from good to amazing when you have it direct from a keg. Schlafly's Christmas Ale is a great example of how a Winter Warmer can be spiced without tasting being too harsh on the palate. Whether you have this beer from a bottle or a tap, it'll have the same malty base with cinnamon spice.
This Schlafly beer is a limited edition holiday release that is that coincides with the opening of a new downtown grocery store in St. Louis called Culinaria. As the story goes, this beer was originally brewed by one of Schlafly's employees to be served at his wedding. The beer was such a big hit with one of the higher ups at Schnuck's that a second run of this beer was commissioned to commemorate the opening of Culinaria. There were only a limited number of these Culinaria Holiday Ales bottled so I leapt at the chance to pick up a bottle when I was in Saint Louis recently. I'm a big fan of Schlafly's Christmas Ale so I'm excited to get to try a rarer bottle of their limited edition Holiday Ale.
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale is the Pumpkin Ale that I've come to judge all others against. As far as I'm concerned, Schlafly has made a near perfect Pumpkin Ale. When you open a bottle of this pumpkin beer and pour it into a glass you'll notice two things, cinnamon and nutmeg. This beer smells a bit like a country spice store. The taste is similar to the aroma, it's a lot like nutmeg spice bread or a pumpkin cake. This beer has a rich pumpkin flavor that is balanced out by plenty of caramel malt, cinnamon and brown sugar.
I don't make a habit out of following Anheuser-Busch's press releases so Bud Light Golden Wheat was a bit of a surprise to me. My first thoughts were, "Oh, they're trying to cash in on the popularity of craft wheat beers by releasing one of their own." Then I got to thinking... craft beer drinkers aren't going to pass over their regionally brewed wheat in favor of the Bud Light version of a wheat beer unless it's absolutely stellar. Well, spoiler alert: it's not stellar, not even close. This beer is essentially just a Bud Light that was brewed with a pinch of orange rind and, allegedly, coriander. The body is cloudy but not quite as opaque as the wheats you've had before. It certainly looks a lot closer to a wheat than a Bud Light... but looks can certainly be deceiving. The flavor is about the same as I remember a regular Bud Light tasting only it hasn't had ALL of its flavor filtered out. There is a faint hint of citrus up front when you take a sip but it quickly dissipates and you're left with a bland, slightly bitter and wholly riced light beer.
Schlafly's Bière De Garde just feels right. It tastes great, looks great and goes really well with a robust pizza. What more can I say? This was the first true Bière De Garde that I ever had and I return to it every time I want a hearty and sour full bodied beer with my dinner. This Bière De Garde smells like a farmhouse... but in a good way. It smells warm and wheaty, sour and a little fruity. The flavor of this beer is complicated and yet still familiar. It is sour and creamy with just a hint of spice. It's as if they took a wheat beer, a trippel and a Märzen; pour them all in to a vat and through the mystical art of brewing, came up with this delicious Bière De Garde. My one gripe with this beer, and it is a small one, is that it ultimately is more sour than sweet. It's a small complaint, but I'd love to try a version of this beer that has a little more sweetness in the aftertaste.
I first had the Schalfly Export India Pale Ale at the Schlafly Taproom in Saint Louis this summer. Not only was the Export I.P.A. on tap but they were serving it from the cask. Normally, I don't order I.P.A.s when I go out - since they aren't really my favorite style of beer to drink. Since my goal for the summer was to find an I.P.A. that I genuinely enjoyed, I was felt compelled to order the cask I.P.A., and I'm glad I did. Very first impressions of the Export I.P.A. were great, it was served in a snifter after all. The taste of this beer was quite remarkable, it wasn't like any I.P.A. I'd had before. Schlafly managed to make a very balanced I.P.A. ...well, very balanced FOR an I.P.A., meaning it's not just a hop bomb. The Export I.P.A. has plenty of sweet flavors to balance out the spicy and harsh hops that come with being an India Pale Ale.