Dale Pale’s Ale: Holy Shit! Craft Beer in a Can!

Dale Pale’s Ale: Holy Shit! Craft Beer in a Can!

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 65

Rating: 4/5

Style: American Pale Ale/India Pale Ale Hybrid

The artwork on the can is superb, featuring a certain classiness with this brew.

Yes. Craft Beer. In a bloody can. People are finally doing it. You can probably recognize my stark bias here immediately, but I love drinking beer from a can. Now I typically will pour the can in the appropriate glassware, but canning beer merely has myriad advantages over bottling it. Many people believe that temperature is what actually skunks a beer, which is partially true. One needs to watch the temperatures they store their beer– this just is not with beer, but most consumables. Extreme temperature changes the quality of most foods and beverages. This idea is nothing new. But the important fact here is that light is actually what skunks a beer, not just temperature. I am not an expert of all the science behind this yet, but basically light tears apart hops in brews. When the hops fall apart, beer gains that disgusting skunked taste. Light cannot penetrate through cans, but can penetrate through glass. Since light cannot penetrate through a can, then the beer will not become skunked. People offer claim that cans give beer a metallic taste, but from my empirical experiences as an amateur beer enthusiast– I have never had an issue with this. People who makes these comments, should focus on licking their cans a wee less and actually taste the beer. People also claim that bottles remain a better insulator for heat than cans, which is true. But is a beer enthusiast truly going to let their beer reach extreme temperatures that could damage the hops in the brew? One issue with cans involves aging, for canned beers contain a protective lining that prevents the beer from developing a metallic taste, which further evidences flaws in the pro-bottle argument. Yet hops contain quite a bit of acid, which will eventually team up with the alcohol to destroy this protective lining. This eliminates the possibility of aging beers in cans unfortunately, but this is the only true recognizable flaw of canned beer.

"Good people drink good beer."

Canning beer opens up a great deal of new venues for drinking as well. For instance, certain venues will only allow canned brews on their premises such as concerts and stadiums. Also think about the possibility for tailgating– when I go tailgating an event, I do not want to have to deal with bottles, but cans are simple and easy to deal with. More and more companies are jumping on the canning bandwagon, such as Magic Hat and Sierra Nevada. Magic Hat released cans in various areas to see how marketable they were. From what I have heard from a few mates who work for various distributors, these canned brews sold like weed at a Bob Marley concert.  Abbita also plans on canning their Purple Haze and Amber Ale, and from what I have heard the cans remain most aesthetically pleasing.

I received this plastic device at the bar one night when a licentious Keystone representative was harassing me.

The Oskar Blues Brewery out of Colorado is one of the few breweries in America that is canning their beer. As of now there are over twenty microbreweries in America who are currently canning their beer, which seems to evidence a movement in the industry that features breweries shifting to canning their brews. Dale’s Pale Ale is one of Oskar Blues’s first brews, named after the owner, Dale Katechis.  As you can tell by the header, I classified this brew as a hybrid despite the fact it is labeled as a pale ale. The beer has a distinct hop bite that is characteristic of an IPA, but does not have all of the same traits as an IPA. Ultimately Dale’s Pale Ale lies somewhere between a Pale Ale and an IPA in terms of taste due to the aggressive use of hops, but it does not detract from the quality and depth of this American brew. Dale’s Pale Ale pours a beautiful copper that leans a wee bit on the hazy side, but not as hazy as a cask ale. The head is a nice foamy white that resembles an extremely light tan. The head lingers, contributing to the malty nose in this brew. One unique aspect of this brew is that you do not catch the full intensity of the American hops in the aroma, which provides an interesting surprise for the initial taste of this pale ale. I only got a slight hop nosed that was balanced by the European malts used here. From the reviews I have read, most people seem to recognize a hop scent on the nose, but I fail to see it here. I will admit, the glassware I used to try this brew is pretty weak, due to the fact that slightly rotating the glass to swish the scent to the top of the glass remains much more difficult in a square shaped glass as opposed to a round glass. The brew has a distinct piney hop taste, but the hops do not overwhelm the brew with an overtly dry aftertaste. Dale’s Pale Ale balances American hops with European malts, allowing for the malts to compliment the more intense nature of the American hops. One may consider the aftertaste to be overtly dry, but I personally found it to have a piney nature due to the cascade hops in this brew, which is an extremely typical American hop in pale ales and IPA’s. Dale’s Pale Ale has a strong mouthfeel to it as well, for the medium degree of carbonation makes this concoction go down nicely, and the hop finish leaves a nice piney taste that lingers. But I would like to note that if you are not in the mood for a more intense and bitter ale, stay away from this one. All in all, I would highly recommend this brew to anyone interested in trying  an aggressively hopped pale ale in a can. Dale’s Pale Ale is an interesting brew, with the personality of a true American craft beer.

Author’s Note: Halfway through this review I had a fly swim around in my beer. Fuck flies.

-The Jesse Jennings, an amateur beer enthusiast

I love my Fantasia Mickey Mouse glass, but it is not the best glassware for beer in my opinion.

North Country Brewing: Dark Ages Ale

North Country Brewing & Dark Ages Ale

ABV: 5.2

Rating: 3/5

This is Growly the Growler.

The North Country Brewery is a brew pub in downtown Slippery Rock (in western PA), and it is within walking distance of the campus. On any stereotypical poor college student budget, it is probably the best choice for craft beer for students in the area. The North Country Brewery has some of the cheapest and freshest craft beer in the area, but I would argue that their styles seem to cater to those with a more traditional and European taste in beer. Every month the Brewery, which is what most folks affectionately call it in Slippery Rock, offers a ‘fruit bowl.’ The fruit bowls are different from month to month, and I have only had the pleasure of trying their Strawberry Fields, which resembled the typical strawberries and cream flavor. One thing that people will notice about the Brewery is that all of the knickknacks and woodwork also seem to point to European influences, which correlates with the German theme of the bar and beer menu. The pricing for craft beer is where this place really shines. Most of the drafts range from $3.50-$4.50, during happy hour a twelve ounce draft is a dollar off, which should excite any poor college student. Filling up a growler is only usually $8-$10, but one will easily pay closer to $30 if they plan on filling up their growler with something like their Double Vision IPA or Pumpkin Ale, which are only available for a limited period. The food at the Brewery is simply sublime, featuring a versatile menu that can attract hipster vegans or omnivorous meat-lovers. Certain places on the menu feature recommended drinks for food pairings, but I do not have a solid enough knowledge base to evaluate this aspect of the restaurant. And one must also note the relativity of food pairings, for not every beer matches one type of food– different types of beer can go with a dish as well. The prices for the food may not be as low as their brews, but one will typically pay close to $8 or $10 for a superb meal.

Fur Hats have no effect on how the beer tastes-- they just look amazing.

Recently I met up with my old roommate at the Brewery for lunch, and I noticed a new brew on their menu that I have yet to try. Seeing how I am an adventurous little guy, I decided to try it, their Dark Ages Ale. The description of the brew claims that the beer is a schwarzbier, so I immediately texted 3 or 4 of my fellow beer nerds to help me figure out what are the traits of a schwarzbier. My friends all told me that a schwarzbier is the lager alternative to a stout or a porter. I figured I would ask the waiter about the beer, but all he could say is that the beer was a dark ale. Unfortunately most people can assume that a brew called “Dark Ages Ale” would be a dark ale. Talking to the bartender helped a wee bit, but he noted as well that it was an ale, yet this brew did not seem to have the same hop characteristics that a porter or stout would have. The bartender did explain to me that “schwarzbier” is German for dark beer, but most resources online such as Beer Advocate and Wikipedia point to the fact that schwarzbiers remain German lagers that work as an alternative to stouts and porters. No one online seemed to claim that schwarzbiers were ales, but perhaps this was a hybrid? I never quite solved this conundrum, and plan on discussing it with the brewers the next time I am down there. I will definitely post an update once I figure out the details of the brewing process for this beer.

North Country Brewing’s Dark Ages Ale pours a deep black, with a beautiful brownish tan head that seems to disappear gradually. I decided to fill up my growler at the Brewery, and on the second pour the head seemed to remain thinner, disappearing much faster. Whenever one fills up a growler, one should not expect the carbonation or the head of the beer to be as well-maintained as the draft. Not much is going on with the nose of this beer, but one can noticed a slight hint of roasted malts in the aroma, but not as much as other stouts and porters.  This brew exemplifies a good session beer, for this schwarzbier remains lighter but does not suffer from a watery body that a great deal of session beers do. Myriad brews with a lighter body seem to have a lack of depth in flavor, but this beer has personality. I would not say this personality is as unique as mine. But the personality of this brew is comfortable and cozy– nothing too crazy going on here. The beer has a smooth mouth feel, making it extremely drinkable when complimented by the light body of the brew. Their Dark Ages Ale does not have as much of a hop kick as other brews, which definitely seems to separate it from stouts and porters. This brew has a clear malt foundation to it, which mainly consists of roasted and dark malts, remaining bereft of coffee and chocolate malts. The menu said that “this black beer, a.k.a. Schwarzbier, was the brewmaster’s first recipe about 11 years ago. It is medium-bodied with a lot of chocolate and roasty character.” I have difficulty believing the menu’s description of this brew, for the roasted malts do not seem to overpower the brew and I find almost no chocolate malts here. Other critics have disagreed with me, but the chocolate malts are definitely working tacitly here. Ultimately, their Dark Ages Ale remains an extremely sessionable beer, that is appropriate for any time due to its drinkability. The next time I head down to the Brewery for a bite, I will not hesitate to grab one of these in between my classes. But for those who are not in the area, there are so many other session beers in the craft beer scene that I am sure someone could easily find a better alternative. But I will admit that it is nice to have a session beer that focuses on darker malts with a slight roasted flavor to it.

-The Jesse Jennings

Magic Hat: Circus Boy

Magic Hat: Circus Boy(Hefeweizen)

Score: 2.5/5

ABV: 4.4%

IBU: 15

The brew had a drinkable mouthfeel, but did not have the thickness that wheat should bring about in a traditional hefeweizen.

The brew had a drinkable mouthfeel, but did not have the thickness that wheat should bring about in a traditional hefeweizen.

Magic Hat is a brewing company out of South Berlington, Vermont, and has been brewing since the early or mid 1990’s. Merely skimming the wiki should show a few interesting statistics and facts about the company. North American Breweries recently purchased the company, and also owns Dundee Brewing Company and manages Labatt, USA. Magic Hat has four seasonals and four active brews, one of which I had the pleasure of trying, Circus Boy, their Hefeweizen.

One thing I would like to point out is my initial hesitation to try anything from Magic Hat, despite the fact that my brother actually sells it for his company. I have found the majority of their brews have the tendency to be overtly carbonated, which can be a good or bad thing depending on one’s taste. I find that the carbonation has the ability to compliment fruit adjuncts in a brew, which can bring about a taste that remains reminiscent of orange soda. But unlike Kel, I personally attempt to stay away from carbonated sodas, opting to only use soda for mixed beverages. I honestly find that the carbonation works as a weak way to compliment the fruit taste, remaining a contrived way to replace other adjuncts that could compliment the fruit flavor of a brew.

Just examining the color of this average hefeweizen.

Just examining the color of this average hefeweizen.

I poured my Circus Boy in a weizen glass, not because one should, but merely because it is one of the few glasses I have on me now. The beer poured a hazy golden color, but I always yearn for a hazier beer when I drink. The head was thick at first, but quickly dissipated into a thin white. I am not an expert on pouring in weizen glasses, and assume that these glasses contribute to a fluffier and fuller head. One should note though, that weizen glasses also allow for one to really analyze the color of the brew, and nothing is sexier than a hefeweizen with a good color. I could get an extremely slight banana hint on the nose, but I did not recognize anything special going on here. I was expecting more wheat and cloves in the nose, and have seen other hefeweizens with more impressive scents. Seeing how one should always start reviewing a beer based upon the color and nose, I can honestly say I was not razzle-dazzled.

In the taste one can definitely notice strong hints of lemon, which probably come from the lemongrass in this brew. I have mixed feelings about one using lemongrass as an adjunct in a traditional hefeweizen. How well do bananas and lemon even go together? I honestly do not find the tastes to be a dynamic duo of any sort, but if you do, then this may be up your ally. I actually was pleasantly surprised to notice that this brew remained less carbonated than the #9, Vinyl, and Wacko from Magic Hat. Much like Magic Hats other brews, this is an extremely drinkable and smooth beer, but I was hoping for stronger wheat and clove taste in this brew. The mouthfeel is smooth and light, which seems lead to one to argue that this brew remains watery, but I would prefer to let others decide this. One will also notice a medium-lighter carbonation in the brew, which I found to be lovely. For once Magic Hat did not hinder the mouthfeel of their brew with over-carbonation.

A lot of folks who are ‘riding the interwebs’ seem to be arguing over whether or not this beer truly remains a hefeweizen, which most likely comes from the subtlety of the clove and wheat taste here. This brew has a sweeter taste to it as well, which is derived from the honey adjunct in Circus Boy. And I would ultimately say that this hefeweizen remains more drinkable than others, but I believe one should look elsewhere if they are looking for a more traditional hefeweizen such as Sierra Nevada’s.

-The Jesse Jennings, an amateur beer enthusiast

Magic Hat always has an appealing bottle...

Magic Hat always has an appealing bottle...

Omegang: Three Philosophers

 Rating: 5/5

ABV: 9.8%

As an asinine philosophy major I have often noticed Three Philosophers at various distributors, but have never quite had the chance to pick up a bottle. I try to stick to cheaper craft brews, for I have a meager budget and at $7.99 a bottle one can see why most college students will not pick one up initially. But I decided one night to just treat myself and pick up a bottle.

We decided to purchase a 2010 bottle, but in hindsight we probably could have found a 2007 or 2008, if we would have looked harder.

Ommegang  is originally a name for different medieval pageants that are celebrated in France, the Netherlands, and regions of Belgium. This name seems somewhat appropriate for the company who brews their beer out of Cooperstown in New York. Now I am no expert on the majority of their brews, yet their Three Philosophers remains the paragon of aesthetic virtue right from the start. This beer is capped with a cork, and makes a most pleasant sound once I pop the cork off. I know it is odd to note, but I simply love the sound that a bottle makes when I uncork it—it is as if some unknown transcendent force is beckoning me to drink the concoction. The brew pours a slight mahogany color, yet mahogany seems more red than this brew, but once again I have a color deficiency so please take my comments on color with a grain of salt. This reddish brown brew has slight ruby highlights and one can actually see sediments in the  brew, which I initially thought was a sign that the glass remained dirty. Yet this simply remains the yeast, and in many unfiltered brews one can see the yeast.

This brew does not taste overtly bitter and the malts seem to stick out, possessing  deep, rich and toasted qualities. The brew has a slight fruity taste, which after reading the bottle one can notice from the cherries in the brew, but unlike Magic Hat’s #9 the brew does not rely on an excessive amount of carbonation to perpetuate the fruit flavor. I probably should have smelt the brew prior to tasting it, but I could not really contain my excitement at trying such a high quality brew. I personally believe that the better concoctions avoid using an overt amount of carbonation in their brews, and I feel as if carbonation in brews is like that jagoff who uses complex language in a contrived manner to sound intelligent. Carbonation may have a place in craft beer for various circumstances, but ultimately I feel as if those situations remain few and rare. Three Philosophers smells of sweeter malts and the fruit is noticeable in the aroma as well. Several critics commented on how the brew has a chocolate scent, but I failed to notice this. This brew feels lovely on my lips and tongue, having a creamy feel, yet the creamy feel remains different than milk and half-and-half due to the taste. This quadrupel flows down in smoothly and one can notice a dry oak taste in the finish, which gives this brew an extra dynamic. The dry oak finish may deceive one into believing that the brew is actually aged in oak barrels, but James and I got into a lovely argument about this. I later researched this and noticed that on Ommegang’s website one can find information about how Three Philosopher’s ale is cave-aged in the Howe Caverns, which are about forty five minutes east of Cooperstown.

Ultimately this brew has depth that demonstrates that America can make amazing Belgian style brews—this quadrupel razzle-dazzled me, and I am more than willing to give it a 5/5, putting it on par with Great Lakes: Holy Moses White Ale and Thirsty Dog’s Twelve Dogs of Christmas. There is not a damn thing I would change about this beer, and I hope that this is the sort of brew my grandfather has waiting for me in heaven.

Side Note: I would like to point out that I have drank a great deal of piss brews as of late, so please acknowledge this in my judgment of this brew. I will review Three Philosophers later and if I have a juxtaposing opinion, then you will see me rant about it later.

-The Jesse Jennings, an amateur beer enthusiast

Mr. VanStone enjoying Omegang's Three Philosopher's.

2011, Resolutions, and Craft Beer.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone was able to kick back and enjoy the beginning of 2011 with some delicious craft beer.

A few weeks ago in my post An Amateur Beer Enthusiast is Back, I mentioned some of the monumental progress that the craft beer industry made in 2010. While it is important to reflect on past successes, 2010 has come and gone and now it is time to move forward into 2011.

So craft beer fans….where do we start?

Photo Credit: Craftbeer.com

Leading up to 2011 Craftbeer.com released and article by Brewer’s Association Web Editor Meghan Storey titled Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Beer Lovers. Now I know that New Year’s Resolution articles seem so tired and true, but Storey’s list is both practical and fun. The following are Storey’s 2011 Craft Beer Resolutions:

10. Introduce someone to craft beer.

9. Try at least one new beer a month.

8. Participate in an American Craft Beer Week event. (May 16 – 22, 2011)

7. Host or attend a beer tasting.

6. Cook with craft beer!  Craftbeer.com has several resources and recipes for cooking with craft beer.

5. Give craft beer or brewery gear as a present. Most brewery websites have fun gifts for you to purchase.

4. Learn more about your favorite beverage; read a book on beer or brewing. I have been told that Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing is a great book to start building a knowledge base with.

3. Experience a beer festival. Whether it is a week long event like NY Craft Beer Week or a simple weekend celebration, beer festivals are a great way to meet the people who work passionately to provide drinkers with the best beer.

2. Plan a side-trip to a brewery on your next vacation.

1. Bring craft beer to a housewarming or dinner party.

I have decided that for 2011 I am going to follow through on these resolutions and share them with my readers on An Amateur Beer Enthusiast. I encourage you to implement these 2011 Craft Beer Resolutions as well. They all are very easy to complete and will continue to move the craft beer industry forward in 2011.

Merry Christmas from An Amateur Beer Enthusiast!

It is Christmas once again, and everyone knows what that means!

Christmas is a time for time for great food, quality time with family and friends, a few presents, and of course some well crafted beer.

This Christmas has been a bit strange in terms of my beer selection. Typically I stock up on every winter seasonal possible since many of my favorite beers are winter seasonals. This year, however, I have decided to try to some new year round craft beers in order to replace the void I have with my inability to get Thirsty Dog Brewing Company’s 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale and Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale (2 of the best winter seasonals from Northeast Ohio). My first series of beers comes from a fun Colorado Brewery known as Oskar Blues.

What makes Oskar Blues special in the world of craft beer is that they were the first craft brewery to can their beer. Originally Oskar Blues beer was available on a draught only basis at the Oskar Blue Grill and Brew in Lyons, Colorado. In November 2002, brewery founder Dale Katechis  launched a campaign titled “Canned Beer Apocalypse” with the canning of Oskar Blues flagship beer Dale’s Pale Ale.

At the beginning, Oskar Blues could only seal one can at a time. Now Oskar Blues offer 6 beer varieties available in cans as well as several draught only beers available at multiple Oskar Blues locations throughout Colorado.

I sampled all 6 Oskar Blues canned offerings and I must say I am very impressed. For many craft beer enthusiasts the can is a symbol of the bland tasting macro produced beers. Oskar Blues on the other hand has put some of the best beer I have ever tasted into convenience of a can.

The debate between whether beer should be canned or bottled has always raged amongst craft beer fans. The perception among many is that bottled beer is superior to canned beer. This is not necessarily true, as Oskar Blues decision to can their beer was intentional.

Canned beer actually has several benefits. Cans keep beer safe from light and oxygen, provide easier portability than bottles for both outdoor events and commercial transportation. According to Oskar Blues website, 35% of the weight of a bottled beer is the bottle itself.

Cans also protect beer from potential breakage that is very common with the transportation of glass bottles. Working in beer distribution, I have witnessed first hand the horrors of broken glass and the mess that comes when bottled beers break.

And most importantly, you cannot hang beer bottles on your Christmas tree.

I know. What an awesome picture.

Here is a brief summary of Oskar Blues “Canned Beer Apocalypse” lineup:

Dale’s Pale Ale ( American Pale Ale, 6.5% Abv, 65 IBUs): This is Oskar Blues flagship beer. It has received several accolades, including a Gold Medal from the 2010 World Beer Championships and recognition in the New York Times as one of the best American Pale Ales. Overall this beer is a great session beer that is a light amber/copper in color, and has a slight sweetness and a solid hop finish.

Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Czech Pilsner, 5.3%Abv, 35 IBUs): Mama’s Little Yella Pils is what a pilsner should be. Want something light, easy to drink and full of flavor. Well put down that Miller Lite champ and treat yourself to this beer.

Old Chub (Scottish Ale/ Wee Heavy, 8% Abv): When I drank this beer, I was slightly reminded of 12 Dogs of Christmas. While Old Chub is not as sweet, it has a semi-sweet/smokey flavor that makes this beer very warming for the cold winter months. I will certainly be buying this again during the winter season.

Gordon Ale ( Imperial Red/Double IPA, 8.7% Abv, 6o IBUs): Named after Colorado craft brewer Gordon Knight, this beer falls into the categories of IPAs I like. I tend to gravitate toward IPAs that can couple strong hop bitterness with a full body and enough malt to prevent the beer from tasting to dry. Gordon Ale is an interesting take in the world of IPAs.

Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout, 10.5% Abv, 98 IBUs): Next to Old Chub, Ten Fidy is probably my favorite beer from Oskar Blues. This beer is rich in flavor and has a deep black color that always makes me smile when I pour it into a glass. Ten Fidy has the strong chocolate/toffee flavors that do well to balance out the hop taste.

Gubna (Imperial IPA, 10% Abv, 100 IBUs): Oskar Blues calls this a hop grenade in a can. This is definitely true, as Gubna is a complex IPA. Gubna pours an orangish color that has a slight haze to it. The flavor is strong throughout the beer, but does well to not be offensive.

So there you have it. These are the beers that I have been drinking as I prepared for the Christmas season. They are all delicious and it is impressive when a craft brewery has a lineup of beers that exudes this much quality. While Ten Fidy, and Gubna are only available in expensive four packs, I will not think twice about purchasing beer from Oskar Blues in the future.

Merry Christmas readers! Drink and be merry!

An Amateur Beer Enthusiast is Back!

Wow! It has been a long time since I have written for An Amateur Beer Enthusiast. Since my last post at the beginning of October my life has changed drastically.

For readers who do not know, I have moved to New York City from Twinsburg, Ohio (Near Akron/Cleveland). The reason I moved was because of a job I accepted with an NYC beer distributor. I now work for a company that specializes in the sale of a variety of American craft and specialty import brands. While NYC has a great craft beer scene, there is still much work to be done to improve the growth and development of craft brands and their placement in bars and stores.

Thus far it has been very exciting! I love craft beer and working in distribution has given me the opportunity to learn about beer and the industry. One of my main goals when I began An Amateur Beer Enthusiast was to work with craft beer (in any way possible). Now I have achieved that goal and I want to reignite this blog to share with beer lovers what I have experienced working with beer.

I am entering the craft beer industry at an important time. 2010 has been one of the most productive years for craft beer and the market for higher quality beers continues to grow. Craftbeer.com (recently rated Men’s Journal Best Beer Website for 2010) recently released an article highlighting major happenings for the craft beer industry. 2010 was a great year for the growth and opening of micro and nano breweries (check out Pretty Little Things Beer and Ale Project to see what a nano brewery is like).

Here is a logo from one of Pretty Little Things beer offerings. Just one of the few nano breweries entering the craft beer market.

And you know what? It is only going to get better in 2011.

So as we head toward 2011 I plan on getting An Amateur Beer Enthusiast back on its feet. With new posts in the works, I look forward to comments and page views.

Drink up my friends. Things are looking great in the craft beer world.