Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Beers 3: Peak Organic Summer Session Ale

It's been GORGEOUS in DC the last couple of days - low to mid 80s, very low humidity, nice breeze. Not your typical mid-June weather by any stretch.  Knowing that the typical summer days in DC, by and large, SUCK from a weather perspective, it really makes you appreciate when the days are this nice.

That being said, "regular summer" is coming in tomorrow with a vengeance - by Friday, the heat index is supposed to be around 110 degrees.  I don't care if you're one of these freaks that says "I like it hot" - that's a bit much.  That kind of heat calls for strategic beer drinking - and you should always, ALWAYS be strategic when it comes to beer drinking. #lifetips

Peak Organic Summer Session Ale touts itself as...well, a summer session ale.  The exact meaning of the term "session" is highly debated in beer drinking circles, but in general a session beer is considered a beer that comes in at 5% ABV or less, and that you can drink a number of in a finite period of time with only a small risk of falling off a cliff.  So a beer named a "summer session ale" is putting a proverbial stake in the ground regarding its place in your strategic drinking plan.

Peak Organic Summer Session Ale

Fortunately, the beer largely delivers on the expectations it sets.  The head is a fluffy white with small, tightly packed bubbles.  Clocking in at 5% ABV, it is right in the session beer wheelhouse, and it tastes like it - this beer is very quaffable, with a very light bitterness and a refreshing fruity hoppiness from the Amarillo hops used to dry hop the beer.  This is not a game changer on the summer beer front - rather it's a solid entry into the category of "tasty beers I would enjoy drinking on a hot summer day."  That's not a bad place to be, strategically.

Rating: 3 heat strokes out of 5

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Beers 2: Orange Blossom Cream Ale

Soldiering on in my quest to find some of the best options for summer beer fare, I cracked open a Orange Blossom Cream Ale by Buffalo Bill's Brewery out of Hayward, CA.  I was never a huge fan of cream ales - my only exposure had been to Genesee Cream Ale, and, while some people really like that beer, I was not one of them.  Tasted like just another thin macrobrew to me.  Then I brewed a cream ale about a month ago - revelation!  It delivered on all the right points for me - actual creamy head, light but flavorful, refreshing, and low enough in ABV (around 4.5% - this clocks in at 5.2%) that you could have three or four after mowing the lawn without getting all loopy.  So was looking forward to trying this one - sweet orange peel and honey additions promised a creamy, flavorful and fruity brew.

It was - OK.  May have been overly chilled to start, because I didn't catch any of the orange flavor.  The head was thinner and less creamy than I had hoped (bubbles were pretty big compared to the homebrew I made), and the carbonation was pretty high, keeping its quaffability index on the low side (yo, patent on the "quaffability index" is pending - step off).  Color was a hazy, orangey deep gold.  Once it warmed a little, the orange started to come through, and it was very dry (something which is typical to beers with honey additions).  The slight bitterness cut through any sweetness that might have come from the orange.  Overall, a decent fruit beer.  Just didn't live up to my (possibly inflated) expectations.

Orange Blossom Cream Ale

So while this is a pleasant beer with some interesting flavors, it doesn't really live up to the cream ale style's telltale characteristics.  Would certainly drink it at a party or share with friends, but wouldn't go out of my way to find it.

Rating:  3 vats of sunscreen out of 5

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer time is here, let's have a can of beer!

Summer time is upon us. Here in DC, that means it is very much like throwing a steaming wet rag in your face and going for a ten mile run.  Up hill.  Through a swamp.  On the good days.  Which makes summer seasonal beers even more delicious - nothing tastes better after mowing the lawn, hanging out in the heat by the pool, or while wondering when the hell Pepco is going to fix the power so you can turn the AC back on than a refreshing, zingy summer ale or lager.  The next few posts will be about those beers - I grabbed a bunch of different seasonal beers (or beers I thought would go well with the season) at the local Total Wine to see which ones meet my pedestrian standards for what I want out of a summer beer.

The first beer I tried in this rotation was an Anchor Summer beer, a wheat ale from the esteemed Anchor Brewing in San Francisco.  I am a fan of Anchor's beers - their Steam, is, of course, terrific, and I really enjoy their Porter.  Amazingly, I had never had their Summer, even though they started brewing it in 1984 (according to their web site, it was the first wheat beer brewed in America post-Prohibition).  So I'm slack - this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  I was looking forward to this one.

Anchor Summer Beer

Unfortunately, I came away disappointed - although the color was a gorgeous, clean amber-gold, the head was very thin.  This in spite of the fact the bottle promised a head similar to "whipped egg whites."  I've screwed up a meringue before - the head on this was very similar.  And the taste was just - nothing special.  Slight hop bitterness, and had a clean mouth feel (it clocks in at 4.5%).  But it just wasn't something I would go out of my way to have again.  And since Anchor beers here on the East coast tend to run on the high side price-wise, I'll look to other ports to quench my stormy thirst (that was the best anchor metaphor I could come up with - you see why I don't do this for a living).

Rating:  2 sunburns out of 5 

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Growing up as a metal head, I had it burned into my brain that umlauts were cool. They represented awesome kick-assyness - if you were naming a band and you decided to put an umlaut in there somewhere (regardless of whether it was an appropriate use of it - I'm looking at you, Queensrÿche) you were making a definitive statement about your band, you, and how you viewed the world.

Now I realize that definitive statement was, in most cases, "I am a doüche bag." But that aside, when I saw Scaldis Noël Premium my mind said "This beer must rock!" Then, when I paid $18 for it, my mind said "You're an idiot!" Or maybe that was my wife. Regardless, I figured that, since I love holiday beers and, at 13% ABV, this was a big one, my enjoyment of this brew would outweigh my pangs of guilt over my fiscal irresponsibility.

A Belgian Strong Dark Ale, this version of Brasserie Dubuisson Freres' Scaldis Noël becomes "Premium" when it gets additional fermentation in the bottle. It gets its high alcohol content purely from fermentation (not freezing water out, etc). Upon popping the cork from the 750ml bottle and pouring the reddish amber brew into a glass, you're rewarded with a creamy, dense white head which lasts a LONG time. Floaty bits of yeast swirl in the glass as the bubbles snake their way up from the bottom to feed the head. The aroma was strong with alcohol and a grapey sweetness. The grapey aspect extended to the taste and especially the long finish on this beer - malty, almost cloyingly sweet, a little plummy. Reminded me very much of a figgy pudding in a glass, which I guess is appropriate for a holiday beer.

This is definitely a sipping beer, something you would share with a couple of friends and consume while reminiscing over days gone by - like that time you took that really hot chick to the Mötley Crüe concert and then as soon as you got there she bolted to hang with her friends near the front row and you ended up sitting by yourself the whole time. Good times.

NOTE: the one exception to the umlaut hindsight rule is Hüsker Dü - they do, in fact, rock.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I Like Dark Snapper

[*Disclaimer: I read an article somewhere about how to get people to read your blog posts, and it mentioned that you should always have a catchy title for your post that gets people to see what it's about. Hence what you see above. Of course, I believe everything I read on the Internet, so we'll see ]

My first love has always been beer. I really like cocktails (obviously) and appreciate the distilling and bartending crafts, but beer drinking and beer making got me really geeked out on the whole artisinal side of imbibing. I recently have been picking up limited edition or special brews that I see in the few outlets around the DC area that carry them. About 3 months ago, I picked up a Terrapin "The Dark Side" Belgian Style Imperial Stout, one of their line of Side Project, one off production brews. I learned recently via Twitter that it was pretty much at its peak, so I decided to crack it open (although imperial stouts aren't what you would immediately think of as a hot summer day type beer.) How wrong you would be.

I've had Terrapin's Rye Pale Ale before, and really liked it (I am a sucker for rye in any form, apparently). So I was anticipating good things, although I was concerned that the beer might be past its prime. If it is, then this beer must have been freakin' glorious when it was at the height of its game. It pours with a very thin, toffee colored head, and smelled of light coffee and that special Belgian yeast smell that's really hard to describe. I expected a thick mouth feel, but it was very dry - caramel and chocolate was there, but not the sweetness that you would associate with those tastes. It went down clean, and then a slight bitterness formed on the side of my tongue, adding a nice complexity to the beer. This is a somewhat high ABV beer (8.5%), but you don't get that sense at all while drinking it (I'll probably feel it later, though)

Overall, I really liked this, and am glad I picked it up. Too bad it's not more widely available, or I'd pick up some more. My love for dark snapper will have to be shelved (for now).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Podcast! Again!!!

Amazingly (really, it was pretty amazing) Joe, Eric and I were able to pool our collective time, resources, and distended livers to create a new podcast. In honor of July 4th (also known in the US as "The Day I Blew My Hand Off"), we talk about some cocktails which take advantage of some spirits produced in the good ol' US of A. Here are the recipes for those drinks, with links to the yankee spirits used to create them. Check the podcast for drinking, laughing, learning (and some burping...just a little).

The Red Hook

1oz Punt E Mes
.5oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

BONUS: check the pics I took on a visit to Copper Fox a couple of years ago - Rick Wasmund's Mom gave us the tour :)

The Caricature

.5oz sweet vermouth
.5oz Campari
1oz fresh grapefruit juice
1oz simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice a shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

The BH11

Check my previous blog post to learn about the origins of and recipe for this custom concocted cocktail utilizing Elemental Organic Vodka.

Friday, May 28, 2010


After much hard work and a (large) number of strong drinks, the inaugural version of The Drinking Time podcast has been posted! For this addition - we drink a couple of beers, and check out three cocktails ideally suited to the Memorial Day weekend. Check it - you know you weren't doing anything with that 17 minutes and 44 seconds anyway.