Look, this ain't your grandma's tea party. Summer is almost here and people are craving ice cold beverages, especially with Memorial Day weekend upon us.
Urban Tulsa Weekly has raised the bar with its 2009 Summer Brews. The tasting that precedes the issue in your hands brought the best of the best into the sample room. Judges for this year's competition included: Andrew McConnell, assistant manager at High Gravity Home Brewing Supply, Elliot Nelson, entrepreneur and owner of McNellie's Public House, Jeff Castleberry, owner of Caz's Pub and Caz's Chowhouse, Adam Marshall and his brother Eric Marshall, of Marshall Brewing Co., and Mike Easterling, UTW reporter and home brewer. Two female UTW representatives joined the cause as well.
This parched crew gathered to sample more than 35 beers. Some were new releases, others were summer staples. The array for the evening was carefully chosen to provide all types of beer drinkers with a special summer brew choice.
Oklahoma distributors, as always, were especially eager to assist us in this tedious task, donating us samples of the latest products to hit liquor store shelves. Krebs' own Choc Beer, Marshall Brewing Co., Boulevard Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch, Merchant du Vin, Republic National Distributing Company and Jarboe Sales Co. were all participants.
Also, UTW stopped off at Collins Midtown Liquors (1685 S. Yale) and Ranch Acres Wine and Spirits (3324 E. 31st St.) for some soon-to-be summertime classics. Adventurous beer drinkers can enjoy the "You Pick Six" option at both of these establishments--along with many others. For about $8-9, you can create your own six-pack from a wide selection of bottled beers. Making full use of this, UTW rounded out the lineup of brews by selecting various styles and brands for the tasting.
Critics say there is no one way to rate beer. Therefore, we approached this task in many ways:
First, we did not taste test the beer directly from the bottle; we poured into a pint glass. Temperature is also an important factor. Beer should not be to the "almost frozen" cold stage. A few degrees cooler than a cellar temperature is recommended, so by the time the beer is poured into the glass, it remains chilled to cellar temperature, around 46 F or 6-8 C.
Our rating system included an allocation of points (1-5 with 5 being the best) for specifically measuring features such as appearance, aroma, palate and flavor, as well as an overall impression rating for the beer.
We observed the color, clarity, carbonation, head size and its longevity; the first smell is crucial because nasal sensors quickly saturate; whether the aromas are bad, sweet, fruity, hoppy or malty. Swirling the glass--as with wine tasting--releases the fainter, more subtle aromas.
For palate, we tasted the beer and tried to "feel" the beer inside the mouth.
Then, we swallowed and observed how the beer felt around the front and back of the mouth.
Next, we explored the flavor. How many tastes and flavors can be identified from the start, middle, finish and aftertaste?
Finally, the overall rating. Would we buy the beer again and what was the lasting impression?
You don't have to be a world-class beer judge to determine whether you enjoy a specific style of beer. But below you will read how the 2009 Summer Brews lineup fared as ranked by a few of Tulsa's experts. The countdown starts with no. 39, as no. 40 was disqualified from the tasting (Note: with the "You Pick Six," be aware of expired beers or outdated seasonals. Although on the shelf, the Pyramid Curveball was akin to drinking gravel. The beer was simply awful.)
Instructions for proper summertime hydration are as follows:
The Countdown Begins
Coming in at no. 39 in this year's summer brews tasting competition is Leingenkugel's Sunset Wheat. The folks in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin know how to brew and have been doing so since 1867. The line of Leinenkugel's brews has grown to include staples highly enjoyed by consumers year-round. They say the Sunset Wheat leaves you speechless. For UTW's tasting panel, that was only true momentarily while they attempted to identify all the traits of this brew.
The golden, cloudy brew pours a decent head, releasing aromas of orange, blueberry, licorice and, according to one expert, Fruity Pebbles. The majority of the tasting panel agreed that this beer is overpowering and not very approachable. If Willy Wonka made a beer, it would taste something like the Sunset Wheat. You might like it. You might hate it. Recommendation: The brewmasters at Leingenkugel's recommend mixing it up with their Berry Weiss for a Sunny Bear or with a Creamy Dark for a Creamy Sunset.
Just more than 120 miles away from Chippewa Falls you'll find the town of Stevens Point, Wisc., home of Stevens Point Brewery. Oklahoma welcomed its line of nine brews in 2008, and UTW figured we would give 'em another try while they are still young to the market.
So, no. 38 is the Stevens Point Brewery Belgian White. Its lack of color showed our experts that this was a very thin and watery Belgian wheat ale. A slightly sweet aroma released hints of fruit and spice, yet it was agreed by all that this beer had light carbonation, a light body, and very little flavor. The good news is that it's easy to drink, especially in the summer, because of its thin characteristics. Recommendation: Try it with an orange slice. Or, try the summer seasonal, Nude Beach Summer Wheat. The label for this brew is a riot.
Well, what do you know? At no. 37, we have the Burly Brown also from Stevens Point. Beginning with a fresh malt bouquet heightened by the nutty scent of rich toasted chocolate malts, this ale embraces notes of nut and caramel with easy drinking pleasure.
While our tasters noticed its rich mahogany color, they thought it seemed light for a brown ale. Most agreed it was a solid brew overall, but lacked burliness. The toastiness was the most enjoyable trait of this beer. One expert even said it cuddled her tired taste buds. Recommendation: Someone needs to tell ol' Steven to add more malt.
The sweet taste of clover honey is enough to make this beer sing in the summer. Coming in at no. 36 is Dundee's Honey Brown. A nice head tops a clean, copper-colored body. As one might guess, the lager offers a sweet aroma enjoyed by the senses.
Overall, the panel thought this beer tasted better than it initially appeared. It's light, smooth and has great drinkability. Recommendation: If you are in the mood for something different and not-too-light, try this.
Coming in at no. 35 and 34, respectively, were Budweiser's seasonals, the Shock Top and Beach Bum. Let's begin with the Belgian White. Introduced as the Shock Top in 2007, this bright yellow-gold is an unfiltered Belgian style wheat ale that is brewed with orange, lemon, lime and coriander. The combination of citruses makes for a clean aroma with sharp carbonation. The ale pours a good, tight head but with weak lacing.
The tasting panel said this beer lacked that hoppy flavor you expect and desire, but nonetheless it's a good summer brew. Recommendation: A good choice for those nights at Drillers stadium. Also worth drinking in the summer is the Bud Lime.
No. 33, the Beach Bum, is the specialty seasonal from Budweiser. A traditional American blonde ale with a slightly spicy hops note and balanced malty flavor, the BB pours crystal clear, as it should. Boasting a great head and a sweet, corny aroma, the ale lacked any punch in its flavor. Expert comments included: "Makes me want to cut my tongue out," "Kind of like that blonde from high school," and "Tastes like water left over from a veggie steamer." Recommendation: How about a cold salad?
One of the more interesting brews of the evening was Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat, which earned a spot at no. 33. In general, it seems folks have high expectations from Colorado beers. This wheat elicited mixed reactions.
A good cloudy appearance lies underneath a somewhat weak head. The aroma is sweet with slight maltiness and hints of fruit--namely pomegranate. Two panel members mentioned they noticed the smell of French fries. Odd, we know. The flavor had a nice hop and malt balance and left a great smooth feeling in the mouth. However, the aftertaste provided a dryness, most likely from the pomegranate. The brew crew said this was refreshing, but funky. Recommendation: If you like tart and tangy, give it whirl.
The party continues with Tona's Lager Especial, the only Latin American brew sampled by this year's panel. The beer ranks at no. 32.
A good Nicaraguan alternative to your typical Mexican fare, this lager pours crystal clear exactly as you might expect. It tastes like you'd expect, too. The major flavor is in the CO2, so its excitement fizzles and fades quickly.
Experts labeled this a great "lawn" or "lake" beer. It's light, easy to drink and very refreshing. Recommendation: You guessed it. Add a lime.
Claiming to be the largest microbrewery in the state, Shipyard Brewing Co. comes to the Oklahoma market from Portland, Maine. While the brewing co. does make a summer ale, we decided to shake things up and taste test its IPA, which earned the 31-spot in the competition.
A single-hopped ale, Shipyard IPA releases complex aromas when poured. In the mouth, the beer seems dry, yet crisp--possibly due to hints of lemon.
Overall, the beer seemed unbalanced and oxidized. Clinging to the back of your tongue, the tasters said it could use some malt to balance the hops. The overall impression was that the Shipyard was too mellow to be an IPA. Recommendation: More malt.
An extra special ale comes in at no. 30. Ringwood Brewery out of Hampshire, England, has a special agreement with the aforementioned Shipyard in Maine to brew this beer in the U.S. The Extra Special Ale appears a murky, deep copper color in the glass. A bubbly head reveals medium carbonation that releases a slightly sour aroma, possibly of apples or other fruits. Its sweet, malty flavor dominates the beer as it glides across the tongue like water.
The ale is drinkable, certainly, but not great. One sampler compared it to Bass, saying it fades into nothing in particular. Another commented that the brew is just too thin to be anything extra special at all. Recommendation: At press time, the Ringwood Brewery Web site was down. It may have been helpful for educating the panel about this ale.
Urban Tulsa would never abandon its own kin, especially when it's brewin' coldies. About 100 miles south of Tulsa in Krebs, Oklahoma, we find Choc Beer Company. Not long ago one of Choc's brewers began working on this American white ale in his garage. He brought it to the brewery, made some minor adjustments, and now Tulsa's got Choc's Last Laugh, the sixth "chapter" beer. The unfiltered wheat ale is no. 29 on the list.
The opaque blonde ale looks almost like a white but with a bit more yellow. A great head and lacing release a mild earthy scent, which one sampler said reminded him of cereal. The brew has a good finish and an overall decent flavor.
Comments from the panel included: "too carbonated and it gets in the way of the flavor," "lacking in flavor yet easy to drink," and "thin, but refreshing." All concurred that Choc has a unique taste profile that links its growing array of beers. Recommendation: Choc beers have a fantastic storyline that develops with each new brew it releases. The chapter of the story is revealed on the label. For more, visit www.chocbeer.com.
The Boston beer company Sam Adams was founded in 1984, which tells us that this fairly young brewery is doing something right. Most beer lovers would agree that Sam Adams rarely makes a bad brew. The no. 28 spot goes to the seasonal beer Sam Adams White Ale, which gets its name from the white, milky appearance of this unfiltered wheat ale.
This beer's roots are in Belgium, meaning you can expect a crisp, malty cereal finish. But first, drinkers will notice a fruity, almost spicy, aroma. According to Samuel Adams, the flavor is a complex combination of orange and lemon peel, dried plum, grains of paradise, coriander, anise, hibiscus, rose hips, tamarind and vanilla.
The experts detected the nice array of spices, but lasting impressions said this white ale was too thin and watery on the palate. Nevertheless, it's a good, refreshing summer beer. Recommendations: Also try SA Summer Ale, Cherry Wheat, Hefeweizen or Blackberry Witbier.
No. 27 goes to Green's Quest Tripel Blonde Ale, a product of Belgium sold in a 16-ounce bottle. The tripel is an all natural, gluten-free beer, which makes it an attractive option for those with allergies. At $6-7 a bottle, however, expectations are high.
The beer is made from millet, rice, buckwheat and sorghum. The pale straw color looks nice in a glass with good clarity and strong lacing. The unusual aroma no doubt is of apples, which instantly reminds drinkers of a cider. Our experts even recommended this be advertised as such instead of a tripel. Despite decent carbonation, the alcohol somewhat interferes with the mouth feel. So, as supposed, the ale tastes of sour apples and possibly grapes. The majority of tasters said the Green's Quest was very good beer considering there is no barley in it. Recommendation: If you have dietary restrictions, give it a try.
Jarboe Sales provided UTW with a wide variety of Great Divide products for the 2009 Summer Brews, including its Denver Pale Ale, Titan IPA, Saint Bridget's Porter, Samurai Rice Ale and Hades Belgian-Style Ale. However, we opted to play favorites and select just a few for the competition. One of which, the Great Divide Wild Raspberry Ale, made the no. 26 spot.
Fermented with real red and black raspberries, this ale claims to be the fruit beer for beer lovers. Its ruby red appearance features a pink foam, head and body. Experts detected earthy hop notes, which were possibly a bit too harsh for the fruit. One taster said that the aroma is great if you like Laffy Taffy. Similar to Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat, the fruit in this beer left it relatively dry. Perhaps the berries are too subtle because tasters noticed only a tiny hint once the carbonation cleared. Recommendation: If you want a super fruity beer, this is not the one. If you like a tad of fruit flavor, it's a winner.
North Coast Brewing Co. in California brings you no. 25, the Scrimshaw Pilsner Style Beer. Named for the delicate engravings popularized by 19th century seafarers, Scrimshaw is a pale, straw-colored pilsner with a nice head and bready aroma. The carbonation is low and the on palate it feels slightly watery. Two panel members thought the flavor tasted like sulfur and another said it was just that of a traditional lager.
The Scrimshaw is a respectable summer beer--tasty and refreshing. Recommendation: One expert thought the taste resembled egg drop soup. In that case, heat it up and put noodles in it.
The tasting panel found itself back at the Shipyard to try its Export, the flagship brand. At no. 24, the Export is a Canadian-style golden ale with a hint of sweetness upfront, a subtle and distinctive hop taste and a clean finish.
After a nice pour, a decent head and lacing settle into a cloudy, golden appearance. The Export smells heavily of malt, but on first taste the malt fails to manifest much flavor. In fact, our panel had a hard time identifying the taste at all. Descriptions included: "soapy," "buttery," "popcorny" and "muddy."
If you want to drink all day, this one will do it for ya. In general, the ale demands more flavor. Recommendation: Grab a six-pack and curl up to a movie.
The Summer Brews panel doesn't always follow the rules, but isn't that kind of the tendency when consuming large quantities of beer? No. 23 goes to the Estrella Damm Inedit, a specialty beer that was created specifically to accompany fine cuisines, which did not happen during the tasting event. Few of our experts had ever heard of this Spanish version of a Belgian white.
The Inedit is a combination of barley malt and wheat with hops, coriander, orange peel, licorice, yeast and water. After bottling and capping, a secondary fermentation in the bottle occurs, leading to a complex product.
The slightly cloudy, straw-colored appearance liberates a spicy, floral aroma. One sampler said the smell of coriander and oranges is wonderful. The beer is light in body and well carbed, which makes for an easy summer beer. Of all the lighter beer samples, this Belgian white received the best reviews.
Recommendation: It is suggested to keep the Inedit in a wine cooler while it is being served in white wine glasses. Do not fill the glass more than half full.
Taking no. 22 in the Summer Brews line is "Old Speckled Hen," English Fine Ale, an import from Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk, England, that is named after an unusual speckled vintage MG car.
The design of the label and shape of the bottle make this beer seem almost vintage... like you are drinking a beer from 1899. Because the bottle is clear, the samplers could observe the nice brown color before pouring. Releasing the ale into a sampling glass, the aroma was, for lack of a better word, stinky. Several of the experts defined its smell as skunky, which then led them to conclude that the hops and malt were fighting too much with the aroma. As for the taste, it's soft and smooth like a proper British ale should be. The flavors are subtle and overall tasty. The question on everyone's mind was why is this beer served in a clear bottle? Doing so almost inevitably allows light to deteriorate the integrity of the beer. Recommendation: Colored glass.
No doubt we invited the Germans to this tasting party. The Kostritzer Schwarzbier earned the no. 21 spot on our countdown. Schwarzbier, which is German for "black lager," is about as dark as a Guinness due to its shared black patent malt. However, the styles are completely different. This black lager is transparent, whereas Guinness is opaque.
The wonderful chocolate brown color packs its body in the front and then the taste dies in the end. Despite toasty chocolate undertones, the question on taster's minds was what happened to the flavor? Overall, the beer promises too much with its look. But, with a good crispy body for such a black beauty, the Schwarzbier has great drinkability for a dark beer. Recommendation: Put it in a growler.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Top 20
Claiming to "recapture the more robust spirit of a time gone by" with its Porter, the folks at Dundee went heavy on the malt for this throwback of a brew. The Dundee Porter stands proudly at no. 20.
The coffee-colored Porter pours a viscous, light tan head. A sugary aroma offers chocolate and caramel notes. The well-carbed brew has a nice sweetness and a lingering roasted flavor. Final impressions were that this beer could use more body, and perhaps it would be better suited as a brown ale rather than a porter. Recommendations: A good pick for those beginning to drink porters.
For no. 19, we visit a brewpub started in 1986 by two women in Eureka, California. Lost Coast Brewery wins style points for its Downtown Brown.
Although this brew is dark in color, it doesn't pack the heavy taste you find in porters and stouts. The burnt red appearance is thin but doesn't mean the aroma or flavor lacks complexity. A deep inhale brings a slight molasses scent to the nostrils--a hint of the sweet flavor to come. The "biscuity" malts are a big positive in this brown ale. It goes down smooth and lingers on the back of the tongue with a roasted flavor, which unfortunately fades quickly. Recommendation: The Downtown Brown's label is colorful and quirky enough to pique one's curiosity. We say just go ahead and buy a six-pack.
Surely you were wondering at what point Tulsa's own Marshall Brewing Co. would pop into the mix. No. 18 on the countdown is Eric Marshall's Sundown Wheat. An American wheat beer with a Belgian inspiration, the Sundown is brewed with American wheat, two-row barley and a touch of flaked oats. It is delicately spiced using coriander and dried sweet orange peel.
Our panel was anxious to try this hometown product, but at least one of our experts had to sit this one out due to obvious favoritism. The beer poured a good cloudy appearance but still seemed clearer than many wheats. The yeasty aroma and herbal spiciness came off a little sour, but most of the samplers agreed that flavor stays in the mouth and seems clean throughout. The Sundown's a mellow, easy-to-drink summer brew that may perhaps fend better in a keg than in a bottle. Recommendation: Visit marshallbrewing.com to find a list of area businesses that serve Marshall products.
No. 17 on the Summer Brews list is Wittekerke, a true wit-style beer from Belgium. On this particular occasion, we selected the canned Wittekereke (also available in bottles). The beer packs character, taste and aroma. It's light in alcohol and very easy to drink.
A white head sits atop a cloudy straw color and noticeable flavors include floral notes (perhaps why one expert said it smelled of hand soap) and a hoppy bitterness. The Whittekerke is just fruity enough with a fine, smooth finish. Conclusions included: "something different from your usual summer refresher," "easily one of the better wheat beers I've ever tasted," and "why is a Belgian beer in a can?" Regardless, it's a sure summertime favorite. Recommendation: The taint of lemony sweetness and its soft mouth feel tend to make ladies a fan of this brew. We'll go ahead and call this one "charming."
Drawing on almost 200 years of expertise, the full-bodied, light, Bitburger Premium Beer is no. 16 on our Summer Brews list. Its popular taste has secured its position as Germany's no. 1 draught beer, and therefore earned a spot in our tasting. The crystal clear appearance features great head retention, and the aroma reveals next to nothing.
Anxious to get a grip on this one, the experts were pleasantly surprised by their first sip. Bitburger is easy on the start, hoppy in the middle and finishes dry with a hint of sulfur. It's got a nice bitterness from its carbonation, which is almost too harsh but gets away with it because of the abundance of hops. Overall, a great German lager. Recommendation: If you like Heineken or Amstel Light, give this cousin a try.
Once you see a Flying Dog Brewery beer, you don't forget it. Rebel artist Ralph Steadman began creating all of Flying Dog's beer labels after being introduced to Flying Dog owner George Stranahan by his long-time friend Hunter S. Thompson, founder of the Gonzo spirit.
The young pup of the pack, the Tire Bite Golden Ale is no. 15. A refreshing, warm weather slammer with a hop edge, the Golden Ale uses imported German hops to make this a good move up for your basic domestics. A good head delivers a fruity aroma--particularly of apples and oranges--that lends itself to a nice balance of hops and malts. The ale is surprisingly thin, going down watery and losing its CO2. Two experts agreed that the Golden Ale's smell is deceptive, stating that the flavor does not live up to the initial hype. Recommendation: This coldie earns the "After You Mow the Lawn" beer award.
Many of you probably know this popular American brew company for its flagship Pale Ale. For the annual Summer Brews, we decided to sample Sierra Nevada's summer seasonal, the Summerfest Lager. Lighter in body than the brewery's ales but almost as complex in character, the seasonal is certainly a thirst quencher and therefore the winner of the no. 14 spot.
The tasting panel had mostly positive reviews on this one. Nice, crisp head retention, great lacing and perfect balance. The aroma included hints of zesty lemon and earthy tones. On the palate, the Summerfest was smooth on the front end and bitter at the back. This was probably one of the better summer seasonals of the whole batch. Recommendation: All "green" minded folks should visit the Sierra Nevada Web site (www.sierranevada.com) to learn about the many ways the brewery conserves resources and implements environmentally-conscious practices.
A beer Great Divide deems "fit for the gods," the Hercules Double IPA has a hefty backbone of nutty, malty sweetness that balances its aggressive hop profile. Hercules ranks at no. 13.
What do you get when you mix biscuits, pork chops and marijuana? According to the experts on UTW's tasting panel, you get this Double IPA. General impressions were this beer tries too hard to be different.
The cloudy, red-orange hue and malty aroma invites drinkers to taste this full bodied IPA that boasts great balance for this particular style of beer. Hercules goes down smooth and glides across the tongue, making it an easy-drinking double IPA. Recommendation: Not too many or you may get in trouble.
Part of Boulevard Brewing Co.'s Smokestack Series, the Saison is a style that originates from the French-speaking region of Southern Belgium. This golden ale--sold in a 12-ounce bottle--is no. 12.
The cloudy straw yellow color sits comfortably underneath a lingering head. Hints of lemon zest appear in the peppery, phenolic aroma. A silky, medium body features a complex combination of flavors that are well-balanced by the hops. The tasting panel thought the Saison was nice but not sessionable. Recommendation: It was noted this would be great for a special occasion.
Eel River Brewing Co., brewers of California's first certified organic ale, brings us no. 11 on our list. The award-winning Amber Ale is a medium-bodied beer with a hoppy (certified organic hops from New Zealand) bouquet and a distinctive taste.
The nice, clear copper color showed good webbing and great head retention. The beer almost looks like a pale ale in the glass. The aroma was of sweet malts and toasty caramel. On the palate, the Amber Ale covers the whole tongue with smooth taste and then goes down easy with a slightly chalky flavor. The ale is thin and unchallenging, making it a good seasonal brew that you could drink all day (but we don't recommend it). Recommendation: Don't let the word "organic" scare you away from this one.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Top 10
Four hours north of T-Town in Kansas City, Missouri, the brewmasters at Boulevard Brewing Co. created the latest addition to its family, the Single-Wide IPA. UTW's tasting panel marked this beer at no. 10.
The India Pale Ale boasts a heady combination of six varieties of hops, some of which were employed for dry-hopping. Big and bold were the words chosen by the panel to describe this beer. The cloudy gold color could use some brown coloring to make this a more traditional IPA, but the lacing and head retention were major pluses. A nice, citrusy and hoppy aroma releases; and then the first sip goes down easy, displaying a terrifically smooth body. As for the flavor... hops, hops and more hops. The Single-Wide is a very drinkable IPA that rounds out an already acclaimed brewing company. Recommendation: For a fun daytrip, head up to KC and enjoy a free tour of Boulevard. Call first to book a reservation. They fill up fast.
Fresh fruit is one of the most enjoyable side items at summertime picnics and barbeques. Beer is another great component to summer festivities. Why not combine the two?
Samuel Smith in the UK brings us to no. 9 on our list. The Organic Cider produced from organically grown apples comes in an 18.7-ounce "Victorian Pint" bottle. Cider beers have a long tradition in this part of the world as being a refreshing and clean choice for festive occasions. Carbonated for a sparkle, the Cider is mostly clear but with a hint of rose color. The beer has an intense apple aroma and a nice sweetness to it that is not overpowering on the palate. Experts compared the taste to apple pie, a jolly rancher and, of course, apple juice. The Cider does not linger nor leave a bad aftertaste.
Recommendation: The Cider is a nice change of pace to the normal lineup of summer beers, but other options from Samuel Smith good for the season include its new-to-the-Oklahoma-market Cherry, Raspberry and Strawberry Organic Fruit Beers. Surprisingly, the fruit does not seem out of place. Tasters described these dramatic beers as "liquid sweet tarts," "club soda with fruit" and "100 percent fruit juice for adults."
Germany's Weihenstephaner wins the no. 8 spot with its Hefe Weissbier. This naturally cloudy wheat beer pours a decent head with sharp carbonation. The pleasant aroma contains hints of clove, lavender, banana and apple that fade as the beer moves to the back of the mouth. The Hefe is well-balanced with a smooth, full body that mixes sweet and spicy for an exceptionally good German wheat. This brew wins the "Perfect for Summer Evenings on the Front Porch" award. Recommendation: We think this will go well with a Bavarian white sausage.
After taming this yeti, the experts ranked the Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout at no. 7. The Yeti from Great Divide was the only stout in the Summer Brews lineup, as stouts get little action in the summer compared to colder months.
Oak aging gives this stout a subtle vanilla character that is rounded off by roasty, hoppy notes. The appearance is like motor oil. A deep tan head--almost milkshake like--cuddles up to the glass, hanging around as long as possible. The aroma is nearly nonexistent but does unveil some chocolatey and coffee-like characteristics. The body is no doubt thick, yet the stout goes down easy--like butter, according to one person--and the roast lingers on the back of the tongue. It's not an easy drink for summer, but the Oak Aged Yeti is a sure pick for fall and winter. Recommendation: Smother some blue cheese on a strip steak and serve this stout on the side.
The folks at North Coast Brewing Co. who brought you the Scrimshaw Pilsner (no. 25 on the list) also earned the no. 6 spot with its Pranqster, Belgian Style Golden Ale.
The soft gold color pours a big, gorgeous head with good lacing. The aroma is typical of a Belgian brew--sweet, phenolic and slightly medicinal. On the palate, the ale starts smooth and sweet, puckers in the middle, and finishes with the carbonation burning the flavor out. The beer dies in the end and leaves drinkers wanting more. According to our guys, it's a great beer that is easy to drink and fun in a bottle. Recommendation: Although the panel was critical of this one, it did win fifth place. Don't forget that.
Interesting factoid: Weihenstephan brewery in northern Germany was established in 1040 by a group of Benedictine monks, making it the oldest in the world.
Its Weihenstephaner Original takes home fifth place with its Original. There's no haze in this one. It pours very clean and light with a perfect German head and yellow coloration. The thin body is exactly what you would want from this Pilsner-style lager. The pleasant aroma is clean with noble hop character that balances well with consistent carbonation. The Original is an excellent Bavarian lager. Overall impressions included: "a gold standard," "very easy to drink with a slight yet pleasant burn" "and "the hint of sweetness make this fantastic." Recommendation: A summer must-have.
Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colorado, wins the no. 4 spot with its White Rascal, a Belgian white ale. Unfiltered and cleverly spiced, the White Rascal was new to the panel's taste buds.
A cloudy white pour earns style points right out of the bottle. Experts all said this beer appears exactly as it should. A big, long-lasting head lingers on the glass, providing the lacing you'd expect and want. As for the aroma, drinkers noticed faint spicy notes with hints of citrus and coriander. Full carbonation makes this brew strong from beginning to end. The experts didn't experience any sour overtones or weakening flavor. "I didn't expect much from this, but I was very pleasantly surprised," said one. "This is the perfect summer brew," said another. Recommendation: Take their word for it.
Third place goes to the Southampton Publick House Altbier, brewed in Southampton, New York. Fermented colder and aged longer, altbiers are German-style ales that pride themselves on exceptional smoothness. UTW's tasting panel agreed that this high-quality beer is more than the sum of its parts.
The awesome amber color and good tan head are pleasing to the eye, but the best is yet to come. The roasty aroma is a bit sweet, exactly how altbiers tend to be. The palate welcomes this nice balance and carbonation. One reviewer thought this tasted similar to Marshall Brewing Co.'s Pub Ale. The Southampton Altbier is easily approachable, a good session beer. We were pleasantly surprised by this American take on a traditional German style beer. Recommendation: Pair with an order of fish and chips.
Marshall Brewing Co. takes homes the silver medal for its McNellie's Pub Ale. To be fair, Marshall and his brother removed themselves from rating this beer. Inspired by the house ales found in Great Britain and Ireland, the Pub Ale combines old and new techniques for its recipe. The hazy, golden brown color appears like caramel but with an orange hue. The aroma lacks, but on the palate the hops and malt are extremely well-balanced with just enough CO2 to keep things interesting. Drinkers noticed some fruity overtones that seemed almost bitter at the end. Balance and body were the most commendable traits of Marshall's Pub Ale. Recommendation: As always, shop locally.
The winner of the 2009 Summer Brews competition is Jackman's American Pale Ale from Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, Colorado. This assertively hopped pale ale earned high accolades in all categories from our experts.
While some thought the appearance seemed light for a pale ale, others enjoyed its copper color and orange tint. A good head with nice webbing adorn the glass, and the aroma releases citrus (possibly grapefruit?) notes with plenty of hops. The Jackman's struts a solid, medium body that blends the perfect amount of hops and malts. The pale ale glides across the palate with ease--"smooth like velvet," said one person--and begs to be consumed. It's a great American pale ale that Left Hand should be proud of. Recommendation: We think you know what to do at this point...
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