Archive for October, 2011

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.

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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