Category Archives: commercial beers

Common Ales: Ordinance Bloops

35552315835_38625c5746_kOrdinance Bloops is a blueberry wheat ale and now is probably a good time to review it.

The blueberry hits right off the nose. It’s fairly sweet too, almost like blueberry jam.

As I drink the beer though, I’m wondering if that sweetness isn’t due to the malt as well; this is a beer that is playing down the bitterness in order to highlight malt and fruit. The wheat aspects give the ale some body and I’m just wondering if the restrained hop character is making the sweeter aspect of the blueberry stronger than it might be otherwise.

Now, that all said I like this beer. I think as we get further into summer (or, uh, right now), this beer is going to become a great quencher of thirsts.

The other side; this beer doesn’t pair well, in my opinion. What do you eat with this? Traditional pub food isn’t going to mesh well. Salads, maybe. Pairing with food isn’t a requirement for a good beer-I think good beer is an argument for itself. However, as a common ale, one that people would buy to bring to a BBQ or picnic, this lack makes for a slightly harder sell.

The Bloops is still good; don’t worry about giving it to strangers, they will drink it. But I feel like the applications are a little limited.

Common Ales: Deschutes Pacific Wonderland

34861880604_cc761f0026_cSmells old. Like beer my dad drank in the 70s. The flavors are pretty close too. I can even get a touch of corn in there.

It’s the smell that’s the worst, to be frank. Sure, the beer is light, sweet, very crisp. But that smell makes me think of cheap beer and this is decidedly not a cheap beer.

Now I realize my complaint is not an entirely valid one: Lagers are meant to bring some of the flavors I have here. This is the style.

On the other hand, I also feel like this is a “brand” expense. Yeah, I can buy your cheap lager…but with this fancy Deschutes label on it, the markup is an extra $3.

Well, no.

On the other other hand, this beer is familiar. People who buy macrobrew stuff, this is their flavor profile. It’s hard for me to begrudge Deschutes expanding their market, which might bring other people to try their other offerings. If this beer is mysteriously cheaper than the rest then that looks pretty weird, doesn’t it? As though they are trying to sell you something cheap.

I nonetheless find the nose to be flawed and can’t recommend the beer based on that.

Calibrations

So the brown ale trials have not been going perfectly. Good beer, just not quite the right look, maybe a little too flavor dense. Which means it’s time to drink some brown ale made by professionals and see exactly where my benchmarks are. I should’ve started this way buuuuut what can I say? I just figured I could step into the ring and work it out.

Which hasn’t produced terrible results! However, a smart person knows when to get more data. Which means it’s time to drink the first professionally made brown ale I can find: Cascade Lake’s 20 Inch Brown ale.

This brown ale provides a roast note in the nose. Nothing severe but certainly enough to distinguish the ale from a lager, IPA, or even some reds.

34513426515_1c580f11c1_cAs for the drinking qualities, the lightness is what really stands out; yes, there’s a bit of chocolate, a flavor that ordinarily would be associated with richness and density but here it’s just enough to provide something more to a beer that doesn’t have a high ABV, doesn’t have a bunch of hops, doesn’t even have a high roast quality.

As the 20 Inch finishes out there is a creamy feel to it, softening everything out. Again, this is a nice way to finish this beer that isn’t pushing hops, yeast or malt. It’s pleasant, drinkable and with just enough flavor going on that you won’t feel like you’re drinking anything thin.

That’s the real trick to brown ales: you get just enough flavor support to enjoy the beer, but not so much that you’re overwhelmed by it.

Also, this makes me look forward to continuing to brew this style. If I can nail this down, that will be pretty cool.

Bay Area 2017 (pt 2)

Part 2 of the Bay Area reviews!

Fieldwork- Chocolate milk: this is a milk brown ale and….whoa.It tastes like it should have a lot more weight-my friend Kate (who is playing tour guide for me today) says “heavier and a little creamy and it’s not” which is a good assessment. But it’s also damn good-which we also agree on. Unexpected yet tasty.

I a35167038146_cb750d861e_clso got the Power Glove double IPA which is equally wonderful, one that Kate (who does not like IPAs) says is “almost drinkable”. For me it’s super drinkable and has a really pleasant orange flavor, which is a welcome change. The bitterness gets a little sharper as the beer warms up but nothing undesirable.

Faction (reviewed again because I went to their brewery): Moon Germs pale-made with oats, this pale has that kind of roundness that you get in the mouth from that addition. But after that, it seems like a pale. The hop finish is a little intense, however it’s not enough for me to suggest that the beer shouldn’t be drank.

Headlands: Wolfback Ridge IPA-good nose with a pine sway but the beer itself wants to put the malt forward. I’m not complaining, as there is a subtle bitterness that appears on the finish. That bitterness seems to get a little stronger as I go, keeping things in the IPA realm.

Barebottle: Galaxy Dust IPA. Ah, the NE strain of IPAs has indeed made it to the Bay array. But this isn’t bad! The grapefruit isn’t too pronounced, the bitterness isn’t too strong. It’s almost like drinking a less abrasive, more alcoholic Sprite, actually. I’m kinda down with this.

35167038886_d0057a14d2_cMagnolia Brewing: Kalifornia Kolsch-The nose has me wanting to like it already: with that yeasty, dough rising scent. And huzza! It pays off; the mouthfeel is just rich enough to keep the beer from feeling watery, with a soft, grainy flavor and a very crisp finish. Really solid ale and especially good for summer.

Alvarado Street: Hive Mind double IPA. The nose isn’t very prominent, so I’m not sure what I’ve got here. Visually, it’s cloudy like a NE IPA, but this is a sweeter beer. As it warms, there’s a little bit of a skunky note that comes out, along with a little more bitterness. Which is good, because that prevents the beer from becoming cloying. Solid and I’d try another.

Common Ales: Golden Road-Ride On IPA

33702899493_fc1aa22576_cHere’s what I knew before I bought this beer: I don’t know them, and I should try this beer!

Here’s what I found out shortly after buying the six pack: they are owned by InBevAB.

I hate unknowingly giving evil my money. I mean, I know that sometimes I’m going to do that, especially with this series. There’s just no way to avoid it. But I don’t like feeling duped.

It doesn’t really matter though. The Ride On IPA Hop nose is faint, but even and lemony. This is not a bad stretch for the beer itself; almost…like lemon detergent. Drinkable detergent.

The bitterness on the finish isn’t too strong-although it becomes a little more potent as the beer goes down-and all in all what I have here is a pretty inoffensive, fairly drinkable thing.

Which is the best I can say about it; ‘you can drink this’.

Common Ales: Scotch Ales. Sorta

So I was telling my friend Noah that I’d had Gigantic’s scotch ale recently and thought it was good, but seen a fellow OBC member talk about Fort George’s scotch ale and thought it would be cool to compare them.

“I’m in for that,” he said and so we began a short quest to drink Scotch ales and compare them.

Here are our impressions:

33702901823_5bea06f7a1_cWalking Man; High Road Scotch Ale- a little smoke on the nose but nothing offputting. Noah points out that the sweet flavor is is very similar to the Innis, but that this beer is better balanced. He’s right; the sweet qualities in this beer are very similar but the roast note, with maybe a touch of peat? on the end keep this beer in check in a very appealing manner.

Innis & Gunn; Oak aged scotch ale- It’s sweet. It’s light, yes, and there’s a touch of smokey malt on the finish but we are agreed that “that’s very weird”. For me, there’s something cloying about this beer and I don’t like it. Noah is a bit more forgiving but he isn’t inclined to buy it again, either.

34513423255_71a093a120_cOrkney; Skull Splitter- there are a lot more hops on the nose-a bit spicy, and it pays out on the finish too, with a bitterness that overshadows the smokey malt quality. It plays out much lighter than the Walking Man, and a bit more quaffable. We are agreed, however, that this beer has the most Dwarven name ever. I mean-how can you not picture this ale being made by denizens of Middle-Earth?

Gigantic: Mons Meg- this beer is emphasizing the roasted qualities more than the others but it is far and away the best ale of the night. We both agree on that. What’s also interesting is that we agree that the higher ABV beers work better. Our conjecture is that the sweetness of the alcohol helps offset the smokey notes.

And that was it. I went looking for the Fort George beer but couldn’t find it-I was told that the Plaid was their seasonal and they’d moved on to a saison. All that effort to compare beers and we didn’t even get to try the one I wanted to try.

Until…we met up at the Upper Lip to play some Magic. For whatever reason, the taplist just wasn’t grabbing me so I sauntered up to the fridge to see what bottles and cans were available…when I saw out of the corner of my eye a very distinctive orange pattern.

Well, son of a gun. A late contender! So I bought us two cans on the spot.

34600117105_a41ac42639_cFort George: Plaid-  There’s a strong chocolate note, a lot like a brown ale but with something to distinguish it from a brown ale; weight. There’s a slicker viscosity to this beer than a brown would have. Still pretty dang tasty, similar to Walking Man’s submission. Noah more or less agrees; the beer is pretty good but for him fairly different than the other beers he had. He picks up a more smokey toasty quality on the finishing malts, distinguishing it from the others, though he still liked it.

Common Ales: Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

34633901590_56190a7f60_cFirestone Walker is a bit higher end but they haev a good rep and they can be found almost anywhere now. I actually like most of their stuff. However as you’ll see, I wasn’t as enamored with their Union Jack IPA.

Sticky limes is what I get from the nose. Somewhere warm, tropical and with a solid citrus fragrance comes to mind.

The middle isn’t very strong. I suppose…I mean, yes, it’s a pale ale but when the liquid gives way to that strong lime bitterness right away, I feel like I’m missing something. Sure, it works but can’t I get something more?

It wouldn’t take much. A little malt in there and I’d get something to lead me into the bitterness. As it stands, the imbalance in this beer just isn’t working for me.