I still remember my first Augustiner beer, it was in Munich at the Augustinerbräu brewery in 2006. Augustiner was actually the first beer I had on tap in Germany so for that, and many other reasons, it will always have a special place in my heart. About a month ago I was at Gomer's in midtown and saw a couple funny looking bottles in the singles section and was surprised to see that they were actually from Augustiner in Munich. I didn't recognize these new labels, they're a tri-colored picture of an old monk with a look of approval on his face. I hope the packaging is local and the squat bottles are still in circulation elsewhere. But, whatever... the label doesn't change the way the beer tastes. So how was it? Well, it tastes just like I remember... which is to say, it tastes like Germany.
Hofbräu, for many people, isn't just THE Munich beer but the quintessential German beer. This isn't without reason, they make a stellar product. Hofbräu isn't exactly a paragon of German purity, at least not since a Hard Rock Cafe and Seattle's Best coffee shop opened right next door to the Hofbräuhaus (..not to say anything about the Hofbräuhaus in Las Vegas). Remember though, the Hofbräuhaus became a tourist trap for a reason. Tourists didn't start flocking there for the lederhosen alone. Without a solid line-up of world class beers there simply wouldn't be a Hofbräuhaus and, one could agrue, no Oktoberfest. But I'm going off on a bit of tangent... back to the beer. Simple put, the Hofbräu Hefeweizen is the beer which all other Hefeweizens look up to. That isn't to say other beers can't be better, but this one has been top dog in Münich for the better part of 400 years. When you think about what comes to mind for most people when think about the quintessential American beer... usually it isn't something you'd equate with quality...
Left Hand's Haystack Wheat is an undeniably delicious beer. When I first saw/heard of the Haystack Wheat I sort of wrote it off as being a plain American style Wheat beer even though it's marketed as a Hefeweizen. The term Hefeweizen is attached to many beers which really don't have a whole lot in common with this traditional German style. My expectations of the Haystack Wheat were pretty low, I was honestly expecting a standard Wheat beer... nothing fancy. I don't think it really helps that Left Hand left the name "Hefeweizen" off the bottle. In many ways, this is my biggest complaint with this beer. The label has Left Hand's signature faux-Native American angular design with a picture of haystacks and goats on it. Printed toward the bottom of the label is "Haystack Wheat" followed by "Bottle Conditioned Wheat Beer" and that's pretty much it.
There aren't a whole lot of Wheat Wine style beers on the market, so when Boulevard first announced it would be releasing a harvest-time Wheat Wine I was really excited. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the Harvest Dance other than the vague similarities to Barley Wine. The Harvest Dance is, in many ways, the opposite of a Barley Wine. Technically, there are many similarities between the two styles, but the Harvest Dance is much lighter and sweeter than most Barley Wines. The Harvest Dance is to Barley Wine, what white wine is to red wine. What I mean by that is even though both are stylistically the same in the many ways, the flavor profiles are quite different.
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.
I first had Boulevard's Imperial Pilsner at the beer's release party in Lawrence, Kansas. In case you hadn't heard, this Imperial Pilsner is a collaboration between Boulevard Brewing Company and Orval's master brewer Jean-Marie Rock. Steven Pauwels, Boulevard's brew master, and Rock met at a conference in Tucson last year. It was there that these two Belgians hit it off and agreed to collaborate and resurrect a beer Rock had brewed some 30 years before. The style that beer most closely resembled is what we now call an American Double or Imperial Pilsner.
I've overlooked this beer for far too long. I've heard stories about how great this "Dark Tripel" is, but I've never bothered to get a bottle for myself. Well, I picked up an assorted six pack of stubby little Belgian bottles about two months ago and it actually had a bottle of Gulden Draak packed in. Between packing, moving and unpacking I've been neglecting my beers so this has been sitting in the back of the fridge for quite some time now. In some ways I'm glad I saved it, a dark and sweet Tripel is sounding really really good right now...
Black IPAs are a trend I've noticed picking up steam lately, and I couldn't be happier. I say that now after having drank my way through this Black in Black from 21st Amendment in San Francisco. Had I been asked for my opinion of Black IPAs even an hour ago, it would have been a bit different. If I'm known for one thing it'd have to be my "hatred" of IPAs and all things hoppy. Breweries who already make two or three different kinds of IPAs and are releasing Black IPAs on top of their regular line up? That seems like overkill... especially considering I tend to enjoy one out of every ten or so IPAs I drink anyways... I kept an open mind and poured myself a glass of Back in Black. I'm glad I did.
When people talk about New Glarus' beers they are quick to bring up the tart and sour fruit ales the brewery produces for local consumption in Wisconsin. Most of these beers don't leave the state as they are best when they are at their freshest. Being several states away from Wisconsin I haven't been privileged enough to try any of the strawberry, raspberry or cherry beers New Glarus has brewed... at least not until now. I recently got this bottle of Enigma from a local homebrewer that vacations in Wisconsin. I found myself hankering for some sour cherries as the summer winds down so I figured it was time to pop open this Unplugged Sour Ale.
Oh Hoppin' Frog, how did I ever live without you? It's only been 8 months or so since you started distributing here but it seems like we've known each other forever. Your Wee Heavy was a surprise and your B.O.R.I.S. exceeded expectations. I've only had a few of Hoppin' Frog's beer but they have been nothing less than stellar. Tonight I've opened a bottle of Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S., an Oatmeal Imperial Stout that was aged in Whiskey barrels. Having had the regular B.O.R.I.S. I knew roughly what to expect, and I was really excited to open this beer up.