Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Allure of Ale

Way before I knew what a Lager was, I had heard of Ale. As a young man, I would often watch movies on the television where swashbuckling swordfighters would duel to the end. Knights would battle on great steads with enormous lances, Hercules performed his Twelve Labors and Robin Hood took down the Sheriff of Notingham. On not one Saturday afternoon, did I ever hear the words "Lagers for all!"

Ale conjures up the image of ancient, heroic times. Old time taverns, with large tankards of foaming over-the-top ale. Songs singing, maybe even fists a flying, but a good time had by all. Years before I knew there was a difference, Ale meant beer. Little did I know, that the beer I was used too meant Lager. While they are both still beers and It was beer the heroes were drinking in their taverns, they used the term Ale. Not to bore all of you, but the difference between the two styles is that Ale is made with a top fermenting yeast, giving rise to a smooth, subtle and relaxing taste. Lagers are beers that are fermented with cold temperature yeasts and are stored and aged at colder temperatures during fermentation. The results are a cold, clean, crisp beer. Pilsners are Lagers, as are Octoberfest beers.

I enjoy a good Lager, always have. It's the German in me. A big glass of Stella Artois or Pilsner Urquell, a nice mug of a crisp Samual Adams Boston Lager or a pint glass of Yuengling. All good stuff. Refreshing and enjoyable. The problem is that when I am presented with a choice, a mult-tap pub with its fair share of Ales, I am drawn to the Ale. I enjoy the smoothness, the light carbonation, the warmer (supposed) serving temperature. The easy drinkingness, the way a pint can go down in four or five gulps. A well made Ale is a beauty to behold. But, the biggest draw is the romanticism. Downing pints of Ale, knowing that the most famous characters in literature were doing the same, it's just plain alluring. So until, Sinbad asks for a Lager, I'll mostly drink Ale.

By the way, after I re-read these paragraphs, the phrase "Lagers for all!" sounds pretty good too!

The Beers:

Ironically, my first beer is a lager.

Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen: Octoberfest beer, 5.6% alcohol. Pours a medium, reddish color with a thick head. Mild, malty smell. Light to thin first taste with lots of carbonation. Billed as an authentic festival lager. Drinkable and tasty. True to style. Good beer, but you can taste a big difference between this beer and a lot of American Microbrews. I prefer the American interpertations.

Rogue Smoke Ale: Smoke beer is an acquired taste, one that I enjoy. Rogue Smoke Ale poured an amber color with a thin head. The beer had a nice burnt wood, smokey smell to it. You can immediately taste the smoke with the first mouthfull. These beers go great with smoked meat and cheeses. Rogue's Ale was very good.

Flying Fish ESB: Extra Special Bitter Ale. Poured a nice red color with a medium ale head. Very Smooth. I had this beer on tap, served at 45 degrees. A very good English Style Ale with a hint of Flying Fish. Drinkable and Enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Hangovers Hurt More Than They Used Too!

To paraphrase a line from an Old Hank Jr. song, is it just me, or do the hangovers hurt more than they used too? It's probably me. I seem to have always had a problem with hangovers. In a way, it is a mixed blessing. The thought of one is always present in the back of my mind, and that thought can sure curb ones enthusiasm for overdoing it, most of the time. In college, it seemed like you could do no wrong. Beers all night? No problem. It was a different story when other types of alcohol were thrown into the mix. Maybe that is why I never became a mixed drink drinker.

On the occasional night that enthusiasm could not be curbed, a mind splitting headache would be with me for most of the next day. The type of headache that makes a person swear off booze, forever. Or until the next week anyway. I remember a few times that my father would be down for a visit or at a party with some of my friends and the alcohol would be flowing. Pop would always wake up fresh as a daisy and never complain, while I was laid up wishing for death. I thought, "Man, it will be nice when I get older and these hangovers will stop." Yeah, right. I never did build up the antibodies for a hangover the way my father did. So, instead, I went on the search for the ultimate preventative hangover cures.

The weirdest thing I have noticed about myself, is if I go a few days, say Monday through Thursday, without drinking more than one beer a day, the first day that I have four or more beers, I get a wicked headache the following morning. But, then the next day, I am good to go and headaches are non-existent. The first day is like a vaccination of beer and the next day I am immune. Strange.

I have perfected a pre-beer drinking ritual that allows me to be semi- productive the next morning. I fill up a big glass of water before heading out and pop down a few vitamin B complex capsules along with a couple of fish oil capsules. Too much alcohol, naturally dehydrates the body, so a big glass of water helps to start the evening with a nice base. ( I will drink a couple of more glasses during the evening, depends on if the beers are flowing into me.) The vitamin B replaces the vitamin B that the alcohol takes out of your system and the fish oil is good for brain function. When I come home, I have another couple of glasses of water followed by more of the same vitamins. Next, a full tablespoon of pure honey is forced down my throat. The honey replaces the sugar that the alcohol takes from the brain. The honey trick is an old Vermont Folk Medicine for preventing hangovers. Mind you, I only do this when I know that I am going to be drinking over a long period of time, say at a Mark Haynie Beer Night, or a Michael Jackson tutored tasting. It works. The only issue is when you don't know you are going to be drinking more than you should. That is when you are caught with your pants down, so to speak. If I remember, I'll try to drink a lot of water before bed, but I usually don't, so I wake up with a bad headache and then I swear I'll never have another beer again. But, the next evening roles around and there is that bottle of Belgian Ale staring at me from the fridge!

The Beer

Smutty Nose Wheat Wine Ale: This beer poured a dark, cloudy, orange color and gave off a nice, sweet barley odor. The first taste was of definite Barleywine characteristics, but the after taste changed to a well balanced hoppy finish. I love a good barley wine. The Wheat Wine Ale is a barleywine / wheat beer hybrid. Very good. This should win some awards. Get it while you can, it will only be around for a little while longer. Brewed by Smutty Nose. ( This Just In: Wheat Wine won the Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival. I knew I could pick a winner! Congratulations!)

BarHarbor Blueberry Ale: This micro, brewed by Atlantic Brewing Co. , Bar Harbor, Maine poured a beautiful reddish color with a nice thin ale head. The smell gave off a hint of Blueberry touched with hops. Very nicely carbonated. The first taste was very slightly fruity, but nothing like a fruit beer. The Blueberry gave the ale a distinctive taste. You could pick up blueberry and hops with each swallow. Damn good beer. Very drinkable.

Allagash Curieux October 2004: I purchased a case of Curieux last year when my daughter was born. I saved a few bottles for her first birthday and I am saving a few more for her 21st and maybe even a wedding and a grandchild. I hope it will last that long because it is absolutely fabulous. Belgian Ale aged in Kentucky Oak Bourbon Barrels. 10% alcohol, it is one incredible beer. The October 2004 aged very well and the excellent tastes were even more pronounced than when I first purchased it. For your sake, I hope they brew a 2005 version. Stock up!

Tun Tavern Freedom Ale: One of the best Barley wines I have ever had. Awesome. This beer has won awards in the Barley wine category. Brewed at the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City, New Jersey, it is simply awesome. Thankfully, they only serve it in 10oz glasses. It is 11% alcohol!