Tag Archives: common ales

Common Ales: Bridgeport Hop Czar

It took a little searching but I did find a six pack of Hop Czar, which I was told jockeyed for the best selling Bridgeport ale.

This is a beer I can get behind. It isn’t obscenely hoppy but the citrus nose is there, the bitterness is resiny but not scouring and there’s an actual middle malt flavor to the beer that helps balance it out.

I feel like this beer is allowing Bridgeport to make a statement: “See, we can make awesome IPAs too,” and if someone had tried their gateway beer and was looking to give something else a shot, they would totally be rewarded by a beer that tastes distinctly different from their ale but still is good, flavorful and worth their time.

Common Ales: New Belgium Fat Tire

Why is it so damn hard to do these beers right?

There is something off in the nose and that’s what I notice first. The beer has got some malt to it but there’s more that isn’t readily apparent. It’s not until I sip the beer that things really start to go awry. Fat Tire tastes thin, watery and there’s a slightly vegetal element on the finish.

I wasn’t expecting that at all. For an amber ale to taste thin is very strange. The nose improves as I drink; the malt characteristic becoming more toasty and prevalent as the beer warms up. Still: it’s thin and I’m put off by that. Water that has a beer flavor is not as good as beer that has a water flavor.

Common Ales: Rogue Dead Guy

There’s always a great deal of talk about Rogue around Portland and not all of it relates to the beer. So while noting that many people have many things to say about Rogue, I’m going to set it all aside to talk about the beer they told me sold best, Dead Guy, which they were very prompt and enthusiastic about. Just so it’s clear what my objective is.

I get an element of maltiness in the nose but it fades very quickly. I wonder if this is a drawback to a malt forward style?

I go looking on the internet to find out what kind of style Dead Guy is and it comes back: Maibock.

The problem I’m having with this beer is the finish. It’s made with a lager yeast, technically, or at least a really clean ale yeast if not technically. According to the style, the finish should be really clean, right? But there’s something chewy and a bit unpleasant, a bit like licking a battery.

There’s also a coating in my mouth: My tongue keeps trying to scrape it off the roof of my mouth. I can’t quite identify it but my tongue clearly doesn’t want it around.

Something just seems off and I’m failing to pin it down. This is my fifth Dead Guy and all I can think is: this beer almost gets there. Except it doesn’t. I can’t recommend it.

Common Ales: Sierra Nevada Pale

Sierra Nevada’s Pale ale has long been known as being one of the more important beers in the American craft brewing revolution. So I was excited to hear that it is still their best selling beer. An opportunity to try one of the landmark beers of the craft ale movement? Hell yes!

Their pale ale has a hop nose most IPAs would be jealous of. One sip though and the malt appears right on the front door, (hop) flowers in hand saying hello. This beer gets sweeter as it finishes, more malt appearing and it almost seems odd, until a few seconds after I swallow and the bitterness closes the door on this beer.

In other words, this is a damn fine pale ale and it deserves its reputation as one of the beers to help kick off and revolutionize craft brewing.

As I finish off the last beer in my six pack, I’m reminded of the joy of just having a good beer. Nothing against the new, the innovators, the challengers. But someone had to make that standard once and now that they aren’t new, has to hold the banner of “We set the bar and we maintain it.”

That’s worth celebrating.

Common Ales: Redhook Long Hammer IPA

This beer is problematic and may also be a starting point to illustrate how difficult brewing can be.

The Long Hammer smells skunked. It’s right there in the nose and even worse, the beer finished with that same flavor: skunky.

Typically, a skunked flavor means that the beer is light struck and this is a very, very odd condition to meet with a craft beer, because bottling and packaging are constructed to prevent this circumstance from happening. Yet I cannot deny: This is the case. Now, is this beer a victim of big box store care? Is this just bad luck? Is it problematic because of the brewery?

In any case, it has become difficult to focus on the middle of the Long Hammer, where the balance of this beer would rest. I don’t get the sense that that middle is bad or off center but the flaw in this beer overwrites everything else.

What I’m recalling is that I had similar issues with Deschutes’ Mirror Pond ale. There must be some good pale/ipas on the mass market, right?

Decisions Decisions Decisions

Look at this:
I mean, just look at this!
Those are two different pictures I took at the Fred Meyer on 28th and Broadway and it doesn’t even cover the entirety of the craft beer section or the selection of 22oz beers available.

That is an absurd amount of choices, choices that, for the most part, beer writers don’t talk about. It’s the kind of thing that gives me option paralysis. But this is what most consumers are looking at, every time they want to buy a craft beer: these are the choices. And we don’t talk about them! How does that make any sense?

Don’t get me wrong: I know that Belmont Station, Beermongers, John’s Market, Saraveza, etc, are all doing a huge service to beer lovers in Portland. I just feel as though there is something that doesn’t get talked about much and maybe it’s time to take a swing at that.

So I’m going to ask some of the larger craft breweries what their best selling beer is, one that I can easily buy in a grocery store, and then purchase and review it. It’s going to take me awhile, I know, so bear with but I think it’ll be valuable both as a drinker and writer, as chance to look at what’s making these popular beers popular beyond marketing, and hopefully for a reader, as a way to narrow down the field when looking at all these choices.