Friday, September 23, 2005

Drinking Beer With My Daughter

I have a baby at home. She is a beautiful, bouncing, blonde, baby girl. She'll be one year old very soon. This whole father thing is very new to me and I am learning as I go along. The other day, I was staring off into space, as I usually do and wondered, "what will it be like to eventually share a beer with my daughter?" I was thinking about the idea of a proud father sharing a pint with his son. Not having a boy, and being an equal opportunity parent, I imagined the same scenario with my daughter. Don't tell my wife this, and please correct me if I am wrong, but, I feel as if that first legal pint at the local pub while watching a game or having pleasant conversation is a milestone that I should be looking forward to.

I have a couple of memories of my Father and I drinking a few beers together during my college years. I have this feeling that it was something he looked forward to. A father & son bonding, the sharing of something special that we could both enjoy together. It has been years since college, and my father and I continue to bond in this "special" way, too often and too much, according to my mother. But I would like to think, that the first time was special for Dad. I would bet he really enjoyed it when I made my way to the bar and bought him a beer (Probably, with his money. Now it seems, I am the one who purchases all the beer). My dad actually has decent taste in beer. One year, I tried to trick him and poured a canned Light beer into a pint glass, telling him it was a rare imported beer from Germany. He took one sip and said, "tastes like piss."

I am looking forward to teaching my daughter some of the important things I learned in my life. Not the least being, that beer is a special drink to be respected and enjoyed, that not all beers are created equally and too many beers are not a good thing. But more importantly, a pint or two can bring a little girl a little closer to her dad.

Now the reviews:

Don de Dieu, from Canada's Unibroue: One more wheat beer made it under the wire before summer ended and fall began. This 750ml corked champagne bottle was loaded with a classic wheat beer. Good smell, thick head, great aftertaste. All About Beer Magazine gave this beer top honors in its category. The only problem, if this is a problem, is that the beer was 9% alcohol. Summer wheat beers in my fridge are typically light in alcohol. This baby was a killer. Halfway through the two pint bottle, you're drunk already. At least I was. Very good beer. Deserves its ranking.

King Lager, from Victoria, Australia: Finally, a real Australian Beer made it to South Jersey. King Lager had a sweet taste to it. Went down very smooth. The coolest thing about it was it poured a thick head, just like a homebrew head. It looked like an Ice Cream float in the mug. The head stayed for the duration too. This was a decent beer and would make a great addition in the cooler at the beach.

Long Trail IPA, from Vermont: This IPA poured a nice light, amber color, with a very thin, typical ale head. Mild, hoppy smell. The taste was light, crisp and very refreshing. The hops were present in a very pleasant drinkable manner, not over powering at all. Long Trail IPA is a great "drinking beer." You could easily stick with this beer over an afternoon of football and be extremely happy. A picture of the bottle should be in the dictionary next to the term "session beer."

Yards ESA, Extra Special Ale, from Philadelphia: In contrast to the above, the hops are out and playing around in this beer. Moderately, strong, hoppy taste. ESA is bottle conditioned to the point of actually being alive. Every bottle of the six pack I purchased, poured a thick head, that never went away. The beer was so alive, I had to wait for it to settle before I could finish pouring in the bottle. They don't call this beer special without a reason. ESA was just the beer I was looking for to go with a nice Thai dinner. Very enjoyable beer.

Gonzo Imperial Porter, Flying Dog Brewery from Colorado: This beer was a special edition beer in memory of the prolific writer Hunter S. Thompson. The owners of the brewery were friends with Gonzo. Someone, ok, me, needs to start writing letters to the brewers. This beer cannot stay a seasonal or special only selection. When I tell you, it was the best damn porter I ever put in my mouth, I am not lying. It may be the best damn beer I ever put in my mouth. Incredible. It actually defies description. I shared this beer with a few friends, without saying anything about how I liked it. I saw first sips, blank stares, second sips, then the words "wow" come out of mouths. I need more of this. Now.

Since their Porter was so good and I really like Octoberfest beer, when I saw Flying Dog Brewery's Dogtoberfest, I grabbed a six pack. Deep, dark, red with a thin ale-ish head, this beer beer was lightly carbonated and smooth like a cask conditioned mild ale. Very tasty. I enjoyed this beer and felt it is exactly what an Octoberfest Beer should be like. A beer you could enjoy all day at an Octoberfest celebration with not too many ill effects the next morning. Clang some mugs filled with Flying Dog together and celebrate the seaon.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Wheat Beer Wars

For me, the end of summer marks the end of imbibing one of my favorite styles of brew...The wheat beer. I am a huge fan of Weisse, Witt and Hefe-Weizan beer. These beers signify fun in the summer sun. The refreshing taste and moderate alcohol content lend itself to a thirst quenching experience. The first wheat beer I ever had was in the late eighties in a beer bar called Taco Max located in Atlanta, Georgia. Taco Max was known for their very hot chicken wings and their over 100 different bottles of beer. I was perusing the menu, when the name Hoegarden came up. Naturally I pronounced it Hoe, not Who, and was completely sold on the name. I ordered one. Thankfully, it was a hot summer day and we were drinking on the outside deck, the refreshing, thirst quenching taste made me fall in love with the beer, and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. Incidently, I still pronounce it with a Hoe for sentimental reasons.

Wheat Beer Wars

I took the time this summer, to try a variety of wheat beers. I battled one beer against the other and wittled the compatants down to one victor. Here are the contenders:
Schneider Weisse Hefeweizan
Paulaner Hefeweizan
Franziskaner Hefeweizan
Hacker-Pschorr Weisse
Ayinger Brau Weisse
Schneider Weisse (original)
Schneider's Organic Wiesen Edel-Weisse
Ommegang Witte
Julius Echter Hefe-Weiss

Quite a list. This was one war that I wished did not end. Here is my personal critique.

Schneider Weisse Original German Hefeweizan: This beer poured a dark, ruddy color with a thin head that died quickly. No outstanding odor. 1st taste was a little thick for a wheat beer. The after taste did not leave a strong impression, though the beer was enjoyable. I give the first 80z a 3.5 out of 5 and the second 8oz a 4 out of 5.

Ayinger Brau-Weisse: Poured a very thick head. The 1st taste let you know you had a classic. The smell of cloves was every where. The after taste was perfect. Again, cloves everywhere. This was a very fine beer and a great representative of the style. I gave it a 4.5 out of 5 for the first 80z and a 5 out of 5 for the second 80z.

Paulaner Hefe-Weizen: This beer poured a medium light to dark, cloudy color with a nice thick head. The odor was nothing to really mention. 1st taste was very refreshing and the after taste was not overpowering. (For me, wheat beer after taste is enjoyable when it is overpowering) 1st 60z, I give it a 4 out of 5. The second 6oz gets another 4 out of 5.

Hacker-Pschorr Weisse: Light, cloudy color with a thick head that disipates quickly. Light clovey smell, not too strong. 1st taste was very refreshing. The after taste had the cloves at just the right level. 1st 6oz, 4 out of 5. The 2nd 60z, 4.5 out of 5.

Ommegang Witte: The first taste was incredible, but the after taste was not what I was looking for. This beer had more of a dry champagne taste. Very crisp with bubbly sensations. 1st 12oz, 4 out of 5. The second 12oz got a 4.5 out of 5. Hey, it came in a big bottle!

Hoegarden Witt: Very light colored, cloudy beer. Lots of muck in the bottom of the bottle! The odor was heavy in corinder. The first taste, was smooth and light. The after taste was very light, crisp and airy. Not very clovey. 1st 60z, I gave it 4 out of 5. The 2nd 60z received a 4 out of 5.

Schneider's Organic Wiesen Edel-Weisse: I have a thing for organic foods, so this was exciting for me. The color was light amber with a aromatic clovey smell. The 1st taste was mellow, not overpowering. Aftertaste was full of cloves, coriander and other spices. Very good beer. 1st 4 out of 5, 2nd 6oz, 4 out of 5. I bought this beer multiple times this summer.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse: This beer is another one of my favorites. Brings back memories of eating huge pizza slices at the Saw Mill Tavern on the Boardwalk in Seaside Heights, NJ. Funny thing is, once again, my beer taste was impeccable when I was just out of high school. This was my first wheat beer without knowing I was drinking a wheat beer. This beer pours a nice thick head with plenty of staying power. Very light and cloudy with an excellent aftertaste. I give this beer a 4.5 for the 1st 6oz and a 4.5 for the second 60z.

Julius Echter Hefe-Weiss: As I write this I am sipping on a Julius Echter, beer, that is. Julius founded the University of Wurzburg in Germany, sometime in the 1500's. Yes, useless information, but like I said, I am sipping on a Julius Echter, beer, that is, as I write this. Light, cloudy color with a weak smell. The first taste was thin, but the after taste was pleasantly clovey. 1st 60z, I gave it a 3 out of 5 and the second 6 oz, I gave it a 3.5 out of 5. Not the best beer to write with.

And the winner is, Ayinger Brau-Weisse Bavarian Hefe-Weizen. This was a terrific beer and incredibly well done. If you can find it before the fall gets here, grab a few and enjoy. Congrats to the runner up, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. This beer stood the test of time for me, as the first time I tried it was in 1981. As far as my favorite summer beer goes, Hoegarden, even though it didn't get the top score, it will still have a place in my fridge.