Monthly Archives: February 2011

Stoudts Winter Ale

For the second Friday night in a row, I decided to step up and buy another case of a microbrew. Still refining my beer drinking pyramid: Homebrewing high-end-Belgians, drinking microbrews when out on the town and at friends, and consuming Yuengling Lager or another Yuengling brew at home.  On the domestic front, just trying to save a little money.

We are still enjoying the Troeg’s Anthology series from last Friday. Last Friday night was unseasonably warm, in the 70’s, here in Central Pa. Since then, the temps have dropped back below freezing and we got some more snow.  So, we are firmly back in winter for a spell.

It made sense then to get some Stoudts Winter Ale with Old Man Winter blowing his cold breath. A general rule of thumb for beer drinking beer is the colder the weather, the stronger the beer…in most cases, literally, Ales.

Lagers just lack the warming power. The Stoudts Winter Ale does pack a wallop of taste…it is pretty hoppy but not egregiously so. Hops can sometimes be too prevalent in beers so that is all that is tasted. Kind of like wasabi and sushi.  Too much wasabi and one might as well be chomping down tuna fish from a can and rice from Uncle Ben, rather than the hundred dollar meals that are pretty typical for sushi. Brews should have a see-saw type of tension between the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the malt. Unless, of course, you are intentionally going for an IPA profile taste. In that case, the bitterer, the betterer.

This Stoudts brew is just right for a cold night…get some while you can.




Troeg’s Anthology # 2

Yesterday afternoon, I received a $ 20 rebate Hewlett-Packard for buying some printing cartridges. This gave me all the reason to convert that cash to beer, subsidized and sudsidized. That gave me about half-off the price off a case of the  sampler Troeg’s Anthology # 2. Hey, I suffered for that refund, having to fiddle with the online rebate center of STAPLES for over an hour, a website that was supposed to make rebates quick and easy.

If you didn’t read last week’s post, I am bifurcating into either buying Yuengling for the base of my beer supply or homebrewing high end-Belgians seasonally (Wit is next).   The middle part of the beer pyramid is drinking microbrews when I am out at restaurants and the like. I am trying to avoid buying microbrews for home consumption because of cost.

Yet, I just can’t drink anymore of the Yuengling Bock in the beer fridge right now. I am just not super-fond of it. I think Yuengling beers will always be “B” student beers. Close enough in price to the “D” big brews, Yuengling looks like a genius taste-wise compared to these giant brain dead dunces.

Seriously, how much longer is it going to take until consumers get it that the big breweries make bland beers reminiscent of  Wonder Bread?  Shows the power of advertising and marketing’s ability to create associations to sports and hot girls. Creativity with Coors, Bud, and Miller, end with their commercials.

So, yesterday was a deviation from the modus operandi. The weather was grand, 70 degrees, and we were heading over to another couples house for a barbecue. Sounded like appropriate justification for a $ 38 case of beer.  We were not disappointed in the Troeg’s varieties. All of them were winners–it is a scholarly collection of tasty tomes. Plenty left to stock the library of the beer fridge. The Dreamweaver Wheat seemed to please my palate the most…since Wheats are a more summer-like beer, I think that made it right for a balmier early evening outside around the BBQ and the smells of steak smoke.

I am really looking forward to the new brewing facility being built in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Harrisburg location has little charm but it was a good place to launch one of the best microbrew brands in the United States.


Bock You Very Much

I have been drinking Yuengling Bock the last week or two.

There is some interesting history on Bocks. I have definitely moved in more of an Ale direction (forgive me, my German ancestors). Ales just are more open-ended and require less stringent brewing guidelines and processes.

Generally, Ales also have higher ABV’s and have more complex taste profiles. Lagers are consistent…and often that reduces flavor and creativity. It is almost brewing pedagogy.  High quality Lagers are worth admiration, if for nothing else but the technical and engineering excellence.

Apparently, monks drank Bocks during Lent. Don’t quite get how that is ascetic.

From what I have read, Bocks came out of an Ale tradition, but then were Lagered (assuming you know what Lagering means). If you want to more of the technicalities of brewing a Bock, click this here.

I am basically on two tracks with beer today. I am buying Yuengling (either Lager or some other Yuengling variety) as my everyday go to beer when I am in the mood for more than one. Or, when I have company, like my Dad, who is not particular about what he drinks. His go to beer is Red Dog which I call Dead Dog.  I mean why waste the Belgian? Something about Yuengling…if you start with it, keep with it. Don’t switch in the same sitting to a microbrew. You will definitely notice the quality difference. Dance with the one who brought you  type of thing.

Then, on special occasions, I break out the Homebrewed Belgians. These are to be savored with knowing friends like a fine wine and one  should not drink more than two at a sitting. They are just too strong. I am actually pretty much cutting out the microbrews for home consumption. Paying on upwards of $ 40 for a case is just ridiculous. Craft breweries and Distributors  need to be careful to keep pricing within range of the Buds and the Millers. Once the price point goes beyond and extra 10-12 dollars, many consumers will go for the big brews.

I can homebrew a better than store-bought Craft beer for under $ 20 a case. It is generally tastier than almost any Craft beer out there. Plus, it is interesting and only takes two half-Saturdays (one half-day for brewing, one half-day for bottling). I will drink Craft beers when I am out on the town. These days it just pays to be mindful of money.

I might do a Bock next Spring. Heck, my ancestors will applaud and I might be able to move my dad up a notch or two on his beer tastes.

Under A Belgian Flag

Call this post a beer drinker’s version of “Under a Tuscan Sun.”

Last Saturday, I wasn’t feeling the greatest. A cold was landing body blows like Rocky to my side of beef carcass body. But, and here’s the rub, I had a cool day planned down in West Chester, Pa. A hip college town about an hour and 15 minutes away in the Philly direction. Let us just say to be diplomatic, that my cosmopolitan, world-traveling wife, gets a tad bored in Lancaster, Pa. at times. West Chester was the town of my early adulthood, after college I lived there in the plush Town’s Edge Apartments. Domicile sarcasm aside, those were good days in a good place. So, I wanted Lina, my wife, to be able to experience a small town with cool shops.

And shop my wife did, finding a quality clothing store and discounted prices. She was in that store for hours, like she was being held hostage.

Primary on our list to visit, was the Iron Hill Brewery on Gay Street in West Chester.  As  I had mentioned in my review of Iron Hill Brewery in my 40/40 Tour, this microbrewery company does about the best job in combining beer, food, and place, as any establishment I have visited. Some places have great beer, but a lame location and or food (or no food). Some places have decent food but  crappy brew.  Iron Hill Brewery is very professional on beer, food, place…and not cheap. Yet, it is worth the cash.

On this day in West Chester, Iron Hill was hosting its annual Belgium Comes to West Chester 2011. Last year, several buddies and I were supposed to go but there was a blizzard. OK, it wasn’t a blizzard technically…those meteorologists really get their tighty-whiteys in a wad about this issue. But, this year, I followed this advice from an old time PBR signs that hangs at the Union Barrel Works in Reamstown:

My wife loves beer and was the one who introduced me to Belgians. She was partial to Chimays when we first met and I think at the time I thought they were hoity-toity . I was a Yuengling Lager man. Now, I like high-priced coffee (even Starbucks is not good enough), fine cheeses, and even clean my bathroom every six months or so. Funny how marriage changes a man. Reminds me of that old Van Halen song, “Big Bad Billy is Sweet William Now.” No, that is not David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen, but you get the point. I have found my wife’s love for beer to make her quite amendable to my home-brewing endeavors. Tip to Men: Choose a hobby that your wife will enjoy the fruit of…like cabinetmaking, landscaping/flowers, painting nails.

So, being with Lina in West Chester, on a snowy Saturday, drinking Belgian, was about as good as it is going to get…wheezing aside. I was almost mute because I was so hoarse…I could not speak and had to point at what I want to order. I was in need of some therapeutic Belgian, and soon enough the brews and food appeared:

Notice the healthy choice of Cobb Salad in the foreground, which I ordered instead of the smoked bacon cheeseburger. Yup, I am officially middle-aged.  I tell you what, I know the Belgian nationality is part weenie French and all, but their beer is simply phenomenal.  How such a small country exerts such a huge influence on beer aficionados worldwide is a fermented “The Little Engine That Could” story. That, with those powerhouse, lager-loving, authoritarian Germans right next door, no less. A payback for the Battle of Antwerp.

If our meal was a battle, we did leave some beer behind on the battlefield:

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I do not endorse over-consumption and destructive drinking.  Sometimes it is wisest to leave beer behind…even great Belgian Beers. And these beers were great. My wife’s and I’s favorite was Nodding Head’s Rudy’s Kung Fu Grip. Here’s the description from the N.H. website:

Rudy’s Kung Fu Grip

Very Stong (11%ABV) Belgian-Style Ale… deep amber-red in color and full bodied… maly sweetness with a plum-like fruity charecter and just a hint of spicyness

God has given beer to man to make him happy, as Benjamin Franklin noted, as proof of God’s love for man.  God has not bestowed beer upon us to make us stupid. That is sick, like the cold I had. Enjoy great beer moderately and be well. And, invite your wife to join the fun, and life will be a lot sweeter.


50 Beers to Try Now

This was posted in GQ and has 50 beers that you should try now…not literally, like all in a row. But, work out a plan and see it to fruition. This is one slide show worth watching….