Category Archives: commercial beers

Common Ales: Pfriem’s Helles

Pfriem brewing Helles in glass on table, next to can of Helles

Some bread dough rising for a scent, there is even a touch of sourness to it, so I’m definitely on board for this. It’s a persistent nose, too, lasting well beyond the head of the beer.

This Helles has a grainy quality to it, but also a sweetness that doesn’t appear until later and I had to go looking for it. It’s not bad though: the finish is delightfully clean, with just enough bitterness to remind me that yes, I am drinking a Helles.

It’s a worthy addition to your fridge.

Common Ales: Side A’s Evening Bite

Side A's Evening Bite red ale, in glass on countertop, with Evening Bite can next to it.

This red ale has an intense bready nose; it’s heavily malt forward and I’m digging it. There’s even a bit of caramel in there as it warms up, so the first impressions are very strong. It’s also a very bright, translucent red: all the signals are pointing to yes.

However, this is a beer that tells you what it is! (Which I have to admit, is a genuine surprise to me). But the middle of this beer doesn’t make much of a stand at all. It’s more of a matador for the hop finish, which would be surprisingly intense for me under normal circumstances.

Side A called this beer Evening Bite. Well…it has a bite. That isn’t a bad thing-it does tilt the balance of the beer in a way that the nose can’t quite make up for. I like it, but I’d be recommending it to people with that “hey, you’re gonna get what it’s called” caveat.

The Best*: Away Days and West Coast Grocery

Away Days Brewing: Not So Sensible IPA

The thing about Away Days is the taproom closes at 7. But they own the Toffee Club next door, a place that focuses on showing soccer matches and conveniently serves Away Days’ beer.

I start off with the Not So Sensible IPA which has a mild nose that gives off elements of citrus and honeydew, and that kind of melon style bitterness is what appears on the finish too. I’m quite pleasantly surprised about that, since the middle malt sweetness allows for a nice bridge between the two.

My friend has the Milner’s Mild, which is served on cask and this beer is dangerously drinkable. It’s almost far to easy to have three or four pints of this. Just a bit toasty and very, very smooth, this beer is a great place to start if you’ve never had a mild.

My second beer was their ESB which was on nitro. And this beer, like the mild, is malt forward but only with strong gestures at coffee, and caramel, not any overwhelming presence. Another beer that is very easy to drink a lot of.

At West Coast Grocery, I’m having the Good Night Soon IIIPA which is a great name for a beer. The nose hints at citrus but the beer is fairly sweet and finished with a definite melon quality-I want to say honeydew.

Goodnight Soon IIPA from West Coast Grocery, in glass on table indoors

It’s pretty drinkable for such a strong beer, and the smoother finish is a definite surprise.

My friend had the Wedding Season creame ale and it is a nice beer-I definitely got a sense of the grains on my sip of the beer.

My second beer is a pale and…I’m just not sure about this one. The first problem is: I can’t pick up a nose and that tweaks everything else. It’s got this flaccid…melon note.

But the flavors don’t do this any favors either. The finish is wrecking it for me: it’s got a seltzer water bite but nothing to surround it. Just not thrilled with this one.

Better Late, Yet Still Behind

I am happy to read stories like this, of course. As I always am; I’ve said it before but these are the kinds of problems large breweries are uniquely suited to solve, because they can just throw a ton of smart people and money at it.

Those solutions inevitably permeate the industry and make things better for everyone.

However, given the state of the world, I can’t help but ask: Maybe y’all could’ve done this sooner?

Like, 30 years sooner?

Common Ales: Block 15’s Joy pale

I think the question Block 15’s Joy pale is wants to ask is: will people like a hazy pale ale, as opposed to a hazy IPA.

Block 15's Joy pale ale, in glass on desk, next to a can of same

Because it’s playing all the notes of a hazy IPA; grapefruit nose, cloudy ale, sweeter body. The finish is a bit different, going for a dry feel, maybe similar to a white wine but not so far as an english cider.

What I’ll say here is that: the Joy pale isn’t playing those notes as intensely as hazy IPAs do. The resulting beer has citrus juice qualities but are reeled in and balanced by a bitterness that seems appropriate for the beer.

I’m actually a touch impressed. I still don’t think this beer is for me; I am just not fond of juice ales, but this beer is far more drinkable than I would expect and I would certainly recommend it to someone who likes the notion of hazy IPAs but find they’re just too much.

Common Ales: Fort George’s Deviation Works

Fort George's Deviation Works in glass on kitchen countertop in pils glass, next to can of beer.

Sometimes, I just have to ask a very simple question: Who is this for?

This Deviation Works from Fort George cost me around $4, maybe $4.50. It is an American Light Lager.

But American Light Lagers are the domain of Budweiser, PBR, Miller, etc. And they do them very well-I’ve even been told the style category was invented to include them in beer judging comps.

Why is Fort George making one?

Don’t mistake this as a question of the quality. The beer has a subtle olfactory set of hops and corn, the midrange is sweet but not overly so and the finish is bitter-more so than I’d expect-but with a lingering effervescence to this Deviation Works, nothing stays in place for long. It is, as far as I can tell, a fine example of the style: crushable and low enough in flavor as to be nearly forgettable.

But I could get a Budweiser for probably half the price. And if I wanted to on-board a devout light lager drinker into the craft beer scene, I’d either start with some cool extremes, like chocolate stouts, IPAs or sours, depending on the flavors they like, or I’d bring up some of the exceptional pilsners, kolshes, altbier or lagers that are being made.

Either way, I’d be looking to contrast what they usually have with either “wow, this is so different” or “holy smoke, this is what I like, but better”.

So…who is this for? Aside from, you know, parting me from my money so I can blog about it…

Common Ales: Pelican’s Dark Hearted Blonde

Pelican brewing's Dark Hearted Blonde coffee stout in glass, next to bottle.

The Dark Hearted Blonde leads with a strong coffee bean nose.

Unfortunately, that nose smells like old or acrid coffee. The nose is so strong that it torques the entire beer and this blonde never recovers from it. It’s just a whole lot of meh going through.

This is a miss from Pelican and that’s unusual.

Final note: this is my last post until next Wednesday, as I’m going to be out of town. Cheers!