Friday, October 22, 2010

21st Amendment Brewing Company - Fireside Chat (Yes like FDR)

Hello hello everyone! Here I am, taking a break from writing about the amazing breweries to the north, by throwing in a random brew review. This time from a new brewery and also something I never thought I'd see on here, a beer from a can. And yes you heard me right! I am in fact reviewing a canned beer tonight.

Ok so what gives? A canned beer? Really? I know what you're thinking. Probably you are thinking exactly what I was originally thinking. The classic mindset and general association of cans with cheap beer. And it's easy to see why one would make that association: walking down the beer aisle of your local supermarket, the majority of the cheap, flavorless, watery american lagers, and cheap malt liquor comes in cans. A funny story: while I was traveling in Belgium touring the brewery in Brugges, the woman giving the tour (quite a stern and serious woman) stated quite forcefully, that good beer comes only from bottles, and never from a can. I remember thinking how right she was. So how could it be true that good canned beer actually exists? Good question. Let me attempt to explain.

Are there benefits to storing beer in a can? There certainly are. Most notably by better preventing exposure to heat, oxygen, and light. Beer stored in glass bottles of the dark brown variety are good at preventing exposure to light and the other two varieties, green glass and clear glass are ok, but sit at the bottom of the protection spectrum. Clear and green bottles are more often associated with beer not intended for cellaring (storing for long periods of time). Brown glass is better than green or clear, but purportedly, the can takes the cake for best protection and overall preservation of freshness.

What kinds of beer can I find in cans? Another good question. The varieties are all over the board. You can now find everything from IPA's to winter spiced ales, Coconut Porters to pale ales, and even Imperial Stouts. The truth is, canned beer has every bit of variety one might hope to find from bottles. Obviously the more popular route is the glass bottle, but more breweries are exploring the world of canned beer. There are approximately 30 craft breweries in the US currently distributing beer in cans, and 16 in Canada. To list a few more well-known: Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, and New Belgium all distribute beer in cans.

Quality canned beer for the time being remains a mystery for most people, and It may take some time before the general public accepts that quality and cans can in fact go hand in hand. It took me a while to branch out and crack open a can of beer. This current sampling tonight, is the 3rd canned beer I've had. And it's true. It is good beer. So I encourage all of you to give it a shot also. Try something new. Find a can of 21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer and try it out. Or perhaps a can of Kona Brewing Co's Coconut Porter. Continue with your trend of trying new beers, and reach for a 12 oz can next time, instead of a 22 oz bottle. Ok onto the good stuff!

21st Amendment Brewing Company comes to us from San Francisco, CA and they've been producing beer since 2000. They've won numerous awards and are most well known for distributing their beer in cans. You may have seen these beers in stores: Hell Or High Watermelon Wheat Beer, Brew Free Or Die IPA, Back In Black IPA, Fireside Chat Spiced Winter Ale, Monk's Blood Dark Belgian Ale.

Name: Fireside Chat Spiced Winter Ale
Category/Style: Winter Ale
ABV: 7.9%
IBU: 45
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Additives: Spices
Canned: Unknown

The Pour: Deep reddish brown, filtered, head is light brown and thins quickly. Head retention is poor, and lacing is non-existent.

The Nose: Sweet and malty initially, sour acetic acid notes, something heavier, dark roasted chocolate perhaps? Some spice, nutmeg, hints of coffee and cereal. Swirling reveals more depth and layers; a definite earthiness becomes noticeable. Do you think it will taste the same? Let's find out...

The Taste: Initially sweet and roasty, as the nose suggests. Bitterness and spice. Deep earthlike flavors, dirt and moss are predominant. Cinnamon and nutmeg, spicy on the tongue midway through and near the end. A slight roasted finish along with a slight lingering bitterness. Mouthfeel is light, not overcarbonated, not a heavy beer, slight alcoholic notes and warming of my throat. I kind of like this beer a lot. And it definitely got better as I worked my way down the glass.

The Verdict: My first canned winter ale. And a spiced winter ale at that! Really a nice offering. I didn't feel the spice was overpowering as with some spiced ales I've sampled in the past. It was well balanced, had characteristics of a darker heavier ale, but is not a high gravity ale by any means. Very drinkable and very much a nice ale for a cold winters night...makes me want to snuggle up by the fire and have a long conversation :] go try one!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homer Brewing Co.

Finally I am getting around to reviewing the southernmost brewery we visited during my visit to Alaska. It's in Homer, AK, and ironically enough, the name of the brewery is Homer Brewing Company, go figure eh? Upon first arrival to the city, the brewery was closed and so we had to wait until the following afternoon to make a visit. We sufficed ourselves to purchasing a growler of Homer Brewing Co's Scotch Ale at a local specialty beer store: The Grog Shop (which I might add, had one hell of a selection for being so seemingly isolated on the Kenai Peninsula). We headed out to the end of Homer Spit (which is where our campsite was) and made a pit stop at the world renowned Salty Dawg Saloon. Since we were looking for Homer Brewing Co beers, we noticed they had a couple available. We both ordered a bottle of Bitter. At first glance I thought they'd be arriving to us in specially designed totally unique bottles, but upon closer inspection it turned out they were using recyled So-be Bottles! Kind of funny and kind of cool at the same time. We ended the night around a campfire composed of driftwood, right on the beach, taking pulls from a growler of locally brewed Red Scotch Ale. Yeah, pretty awesome.

When we woke up the sun had cleared every last bit of fog and for the first time I was able to see the surrounding mountains. Amazingness. We quickly headed into town to get some breakfast at The Caribou Family Restaurant, which to my surprise served something I had never seen before: sourdough pancakes. Delicious. Oh and I also ordered Caribou sausage.

The Brewery: Homer Brewing Company
Location: Homer, AK
Beers on Tap: 5 Regular Handles & 4 Seasonal/Specialty

In any case we were quickly headed off to Homer Brewing Company (which opened at noon). Upon entering the facilities, one quickly realizes how small the operation really is. They operate a 7-barrel system and more or less everything is contained in one small out of the way warehouse. Considering how small Homer is, it is very well hidden, and took Thomas' keen eye to spot it. Walking into the brewery there is a small gift shop, and at the far end is a countertop, where someone was waiting to greet us, and offer us our choice of two complementary samples. They offer a smattering of core brews which include: a pale, bitter, scottish, porter, and an oatmeal stout. Additionally, they offer four seasonal/specialties, which includes, an imperial stout, oktoberfest, barleywine, and celestiale (a belgian style spiced ale).

The brewmaster Steve McCasland was there and we spoke with him at length about the brewery, the history, its' goal, and where it was decidely headed. He explained that they chose the name: Homer Brewing Company, because they wanted it to represent the place they called home. He also explained they had no plans to expand production, they enjoyed being a small operation. He showed us their old and very unique kegs which contained a "bung hole" (and yes I am sure this is where the current present day version originates from) through which he could place a muslin sack with extra hops to dry hop the beer while still in the keg. Their motto is to brew and offer fresh country style ales. And this is exactly what they do. Upon tasting their beer it is apparent that each one tastes exactly like a homebrewed beer. I suppose this is what makes it a unique brewery. They have found their niche and plan to stay put. After all isn't that what life is all about? Figuring out what you want, reaching it, and being happy once you've gotten there?