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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

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.

Beer and Religion: A good combination

On Saturday the Jewish day of repentance, Yom Kippur, ended at sundown. So in celebration of the completion to this holy day I decided that I would drink a kosher beer.

He’Brew Genesis Ale from Shmatlz Brewing Company is the flagship of the He’Brew line of beers that provides beer choices for those looking to consume something kosher. He’Brew Genesis Ale in particular is certified by Kosher Supervision of America.

A beer that is Rabbi-approved? Holy it may be, is it actually any good?

Well the picture says it all.

After drinking this beer its kosher identity made sense.  He’Brew Genesis Ale is a solid brown ale that does not overwhelm in any way. The aroma, taste, and mouthfeel all have moderate qualities that make this beer easy to drink. The flavors in this beer give it just enough to avoid being too bland. This beer will both satisfy those looking to be kosher and those looking for a refreshing brown ale.

Drinking He’Brew Genesis Ale reminded me that connection between beer and religion is not something new. In fact, monasteries were (and many still are) known for brewing beer. Indigo Imp’s Candi Man is a Belgian Style Double Ale that pays homage to the Monastic breweries of the Middle Ages. I had that beer earlier this year at a local beer tasting. While I enjoyed Genesis Ale more than Candi Man, it is cool to see that there are even beer styles that are rooted in religion.

There is also a Pittsburgh brewpub called Church Brew Works that operates out of the now defunct (but restored) St. John the Baptist parish. I reviewed their Pious Monk Dunkel last May and remember it having the same inoffensive qualities as He’Brew Genesis Ale.

You can learn more about He’Brew Genesis Ale on my Examiner page. The article is located here. It is a little more detailed and will give you a better idea about how this beer tastes.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

Bitches Brew: Another beer and music compliment?

A few weeks ago I wrote John Fortunato’s attempt to pair certain beers with songs from the Beatles. Well Fortunato is not the only one to pair beer with music.

Today Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is releasing a limited edition Bitches Brew to commemorate the 40th. anniversary of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew album.

Photo Credit: Lars Gotrich/NPR

A friend of mine found out about Bitches Brew on NPR’s A Blog Supreme article “Taste Test: What Does Bitches Brew (the beer) Taste Like?”. The article features a discussion by Blog Supreme writers Patrick Jarrenwattananon, Lars Gotrich, and Washington City Paper’s Beerspotter Orr Shtuhl.

While A Blog Supreme focus is an ongoing discussion about Jazz music, it is amazing to see how the art of beer is impacting other trades and disciplines. All three deal with the strange question of “If music could have taste then what would it taste like?” Music and beer compliments seem so unusual, yet really push both beer and music enthusiasts to analyze the complexity of beer and music in a different light.

I encourage you to read the article. Even if you lack a formal understanding of Jazz music the discussion is still fairly easy to follow. It also provides a fresh perspective on the world of  beer.

I also want to hear some comments on this. What do you guys think? Do you have any suggestion for beer and music compliments? I cannot think of any off the top of my head, but this is a concept that I will look to explore in the future.

The Beatles and Beer: An Unusual Pairing

Beer and food pairings. are about as technical as beer itself. If you pick the wrong beer for the wrong dish it will severely affect the way your beer tastes. There are even beer and food pairing enthusiasts who approach their subject with the same intensity that I approach beer.

But what about beer and music pairings?

As I was browsing through CraftBeer.com (which has recently become my homepage) earlier this week, I found a strange article that discussed pairing certain beers with Beatles songs.

Photo Credit: Craftbeer.com

At first I was a bit confused. How do you pair a beer with a song? And what beer goes right with what song?

As I continued to read the article, the idea of  beer and music pairings seemed to make more sense. The concept of pairing a beer with your favorite song is one revolutionary idea.  Both the Beatles and craft beer were revolutions in their own respective fields, so what better way to express that spirit than by pairing them together.

Writer John Fortunato does express that beer and music pairings are subjective. He does, however, demonstrate how certain beers are perfect for certain moods. Some beers are celebratory, others are leisure beers, and some may even be beers perfect after a rough day.

I encourage you to check out Fortunato’s article. I have not tried any of the beers that he has paired with Beatles songs, but I think I am going to follow his suggestions. Besides, what is better than enjoying a cold one with some quality music.

So what do you think? What beers would you pair with your favorite song? Thoughts? Comments?