POSTED ON MAY 25, 2011:
Have One On Us
It's happy hour somewhere, so drink up Urban Tulsa Weekly's list of great summer beers
We're in the middle of a drought, fellow Okies, and there's no end in sight.
The last few months have been the driest in Oklahoma since 1921 -- take that, you damn dirty Dust Bowl -- and right now, somewhere in the Sooner State, flames are wafting through our waving wheat.
Urban Tulsa Weekly is here to put an end to the scorched earth campaign -- to douse it the best way possible: with booze.
If it hasn't become obvious over the last 20 years, UTW staffers like to drink as much as our readers, and we party just as hard.
All about getting out and about, so UTW left our offices and scheduled a tasting event at the Full Moon Café on Cherry Street.
We put the call out to our readers -- many of whom already showed signs of impairment, based on the misspellings within their e-mailed applications -- and put together an expert panel.
A third of our panelists were actual experts -- the kind of beer nerds who take tests and carry authority issued by the Beer Judge Certification Program -- and several were well-regarded homebrewers from the American Homebrew Association and it's Okie counterpart, the Fellowship of Oklahoma Alemakers.
We also tapped a few less sophisticated beer lovers -- like yours truly -- to provide perspective from less-refined palates. UTW may have also pulled in a few tasters right off the street, but our memory of the tasting is a bit hazy.
To lead this boozy crew UTW went with real experts -- Desiree and Dave Knott, owners of High Gravity Homebrewing & Winemaking Supplies, 7164 S. Memorial Dr., which has become a de facto clubhouse for local alco-alchemists.
Appetizers were ordered -- salty and savory snacks to compliment and contrast our array of beers -- and pitchers of water were poured to keep flavors from mixing between tastings.
Immediately, I was chastised for a huge faux pas: employing plastic cups, which come with their own aroma and flavor. Proper glasses were demanded and the froth started flowing.
Twenty-eight different beers were sampled at our tasting, which lasted about three hours. Desiree took charge, setting the order for our tasting, which started fruity and ended heavy and hoppy.
We used an official BJCP "Beer Scoresheet" to evaluate aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression, but our commitment to the intricate scoring rubric waned as the stack of bottle caps grew.
Eventually, our academic tasting devolved into marathon drinking -- but we wrote everything down.
We sampled new brews and longtime favorites. The worst stuff wasn't worth writing about -- sorry, you gluten-free wannabes -- but we found more than a dozen worthy pours for all kinds of summer sippers.
Battered Boar Ultimo Hombre
Medium-bodied and quite carbonated, Battered Boar's Ultimo Hombre was well liked by our tasting crew.
The Ultimo Hombre didn't have a particularly strong aroma -- a characteristic typical of most wheat beers, one of our expert tasters explained -- but panelists compared its sweet, floral smell to baked bread and lemongrass, which faded into spicier notes of malt and fruit.
This beer is rich, thick and hazy golden in the glass. Several panelists described the Ultimo Hombre as tasting "hot" or as having woody qualities. It's a strong, flavorful beer with remarkably little aftertaste.
Tabling our glasses put a stop to the beer's taste, but we could still feel the brew in our mouths.
The most impressive thing about Battered Boar's Ultimo Hombre is its head, which froths high, refuses to leave the glass and coats your mouth giving the wheat ale a "very pleasant, creamy finish," according to one taster.
A good lawnmower beer -- if you have a riding mower.
Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat
Our tasters whiffed a little witbier -- a top-fermented white beer -- from Blue Moon's Summer Honey Wheat, which hit the nose with tones of apple and lemon.
The beer had a gold, slightly hazy color with a low, white head that lingered a bit before dissolving.
The Summer Honey Wheat's citrusy flavors work well with the beer's moderate carbonation and the honey element -- a worry amongst most of our panelists -- was largely (and likeably) a clovery quality present in the beer's finish and didn't add too much sweetness.
Several tasters commented on this beer's tongue and mouthfeel -- a tongue "prickle" and "spritzy" character attributed to the carbonation and light flavor.
Boulevard Boss Tom's Golden Bock
Kansas City, Mo.
Sweet, bready aroma with a bit of hop notes, several tasters said the Boss Tom's Golden Bock's smell was lager-like.
This golden bock had a brilliant, clear pale straw color with an off-white head that quickly faded.
"Shocks the tongue at first," wrote one panelist after their first taste, noting that subsequent sips were mellower and sweetly intense in the mouth. Toasty and grainy with conservative hoppiness, it had a dry, somewhat sulfury finish and a slightly bitter aftertaste -- "The right kind of bitter finish," said one reviewer.
"A well-made, but light interpretation of the Maibock style," said one of our expert tasters.
"Perfect for a hot day on the river," agreed another enthusiastic taster.
American Amber/Red Ale
The Kingpin is a dark, caramel amber with a nice fruity smell that's deep, musty and sweet. The red ale creates a creamy head that lasts and laces the glass
Smooth and malty, yet firm, the first taste of Bridgeport's Kingpin was described by several tasters as "toasty," while the beer finished with a pleasant hoppy bitterness.
The self-professed "biggest beer snob" on our panel was impressed by the Kingpin and enjoyed the red ale -- a style this taster usually doesn't like -- and praised the beer's balance and non-overpowering taste.
Caldera Ashland Amber
American Amber/Red Ale
The Ashland's head was pocketed with bubbles and appeared more frothy than creamy. A likeable dirt aroma is immediate -- "biscuity," one of our homebrewers commented -- and very little hop smell seeps through the heavy malt overtones.
The Ashland Amber has a "powerful mouthfeel," as one taster put it, a characteristic that matches its savory, full-bodied sweetness.
The Ashland Amber's mild hop flavor made it among the most drinkable beers the UTW panel reviewed.
Despite being an Amber, one panelist compared the Ashland to a British pale ale, complimenting the beer's caramel maltiness.
Caldera Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Caldera's Pale Ale was a big hit amongst the UTW panelists.
The first nose of this pale ale was universally described as earthy and mossy -- "musty," several panelists said, comparing the Caldera to grass and evergreens.
A pale golden color, this Caldera had a decent head that cleaved to the glass.
It went down exactly how it looked: smooth. Marked with a well-balanced hoppy flavor and a shimmery tease of carbonation, a couple of tasters also remarked about the pale ale's creamy mouth feel
"This is an excellent beer," wrote one taster, "I can't believe that it's from a can."
Choc Belgian-style Blonde Ale
Bright golden and sun-kissed in color, Choc's Blonde Ale is clear with a thin head that dissipates quickly.
The first flavors of this Choc are sweet fruits that give way to a slightly spicy aftertaste. Medium bodied with good carbonation, the Belgian characteristics of this blonde are well defined.
"Complex for a summer beer," wrote one taster. "The sweet and spicy are inline and perfectly balanced.
Several panelists said this blonde ale was more substantial than other Belgian-style beers -- and less perfumey and floral -- and remarked with surprise about the richness and clean, dry finish.
"A nice Belgian I would gladly purchase for a night in," summed up one of our tasters.
Choc Spring IPA
India Pale Ale
This seasonal offering from Okie brewer Choc has become a go-to summery brew for several of our panelists.
The Spring IPA is not for the Hop-wary. The hoppiness starts early with the ale's pungent aroma, which wafts with citrus and pine accents.
The Spring IPA is light in the glass and has a medium head that doesn't linger.
One panelist compared the Spring IPA to Belgian IPAs, which often have a cleaner, drier taste when compared to their American IPA counterparts, despite the fact that Choc brewed this IPA with only American-grown hops.
Despite the high hop content, most tasters found the Spring IPA to be very drinkable. "It's aggressive but very flavorful," one taster commented. "It's got a sharpness that'd be great when used to cut through a spicy summer barbecue or a strong garden salsa."
Choc Super Saison
Historically, Saison beers were low-alcohol pale ales brewed for daytime drinking, which makes the style perfect for summer sipping.
Choc's Super Saison is pretty stout at 7 percent alcohol and fills the glass like a sun-soaked cloud: golden and hazy, with moderate head retention.
This Choc is brewed with a dusting of wheat, Nobel hops and pilsner malts and has a distinct Belgian aroma that's biting and swirls with fruity specks of apples, apricots and pears. The aftertaste is more citrusy -- lemony, even.
One of the heavier summer beers reviewed by our tasting panel, the Super Saison is complex but completely drinkable, aggressive without being off-putting.
Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy
Chippewa Falls, Wis.
Shandies are beers mixed with some measure of citrus soda, fizzy lemonade or combined with another cider or ginger beer.
Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy was popular with all but the most fruit phobic UTW tasters.
It was light and wheat-colored after pouring and slightly cloudy.
Those who did like it welcomed its refreshing, palate-cleansing citrus flavor, high carbonation and light aftertaste. The lemon overpowered any hop or malt aromas, which made the Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy come across more like a lemonade than a beer.
A perfect lake or on-the-river drink, remarked several panelists.
Marshall Revival Red
American Amber/Red Ale
This Tulsa-born red ale is a great dark brown and has a strong hoppy smell and creates a small head.
The Revival Red bounces on the tongue quite a bit hoppier than most amber ales. Notes of citrus and spicy pine come through, and the beer has a distinct astringent aftertaste. The panelists who were less enthusiastic about strong hop flavors each remarked on a particular "vegetative" flavor, some comparing its taste to produce and Vegemite, that Australian spread made from leftover brewer's yeast.
The hop fans, however, fell in love.
"Think of this as a red IPA," wrote one of our more experienced tasters. "It's firmly bitter. I really like it. Go Marshall!"
Wrote another taster and homebrewer, "Damn good... give me this a medium-rare steak."
Mustang Pawnee Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
This Okie brewer has bottled what two of our tasters' top picks for pale ale.
The Pawnee is dark and orange and when poured, develops a lasting, foamy head with a fruity smell.
Lovely, clean German Perle and Pacific Northwest hops this Pawnee has moderate flavors that linger on the tongue well after you're done sipping. The Pawnee Pale has a light, malty finish that's richer than many pales.
The panel's consensus was that this Mustang brew would make for an ideal session beer
Wrote one UTW taster: "Like the mighty Pawnee people this beer thunders across the plain of my palate."
Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA
India Pale Ale
One of our most divisive beers, Sam Adams Latitude 48 pleased the hopheads and sent the others scurrying.
The 48 is medium-dark brown in the glass and had a vaguely fruity aroma with a light tan head.
On the tongue, nothing was subtle. This is an assertive IPA with a distinct "cool" mouthfeel. Several tasters could pick out the individual hop flavors. Wrote one reviewer, "an interesting combo of German, English and American hops."
Shiner Ruby Redbird
Quite a change from the other fruity options at UTW's tasting session, Shiner didn't bother with typical citrus.
The Redbird is golden orange with surprisingly little carbonation and a thin, soda-like head. The ginger component is present in the elixir's candy-like smell.
In the mouth, the Redbird is lightly acidic and a lot more tangy than tart. The taste tingles the mouth but evaporates quickly with a dry, most tasters noticed.
"Do I get my fruit servings with it," asked one uninterested panelist.
This "tastes like how sunflowers smell," remarked another.
Sir Perry's Pear Cider
Long Beach, Calif.
A good percentage of our summer bottles were fruit-centric and all-out fruit-filled. The general consensus between both our experienced and less-refined taste buds was that fruit is for eating and flinging, but not drinking.
Sir Perry provided a notable exception.
Dubbed by some as "pear cider," perries are brewed from fermented pears -- hence the clever name -- and are more common across the pond than they are here in the states.
A very light yellow with little discernable head, Sir Perry's Pear Cider is slightly tart, a bit sweet and quite guzzle-able.
Crisp and dry on the tongue, our tasters were split on the carbonation: some thought it was "bouncy and bubbly," some thought it was surprisingly flat.
Several panelists seemed surprised that Sir Perry's had little aftertaste, especially given the snappy, sourish flavors.
"A light, refreshing alternative to beer," said one taster. "Like a light, tart champagne. The tartness leaves you smacking your lips," agreed another.
A fruit salad would make a good food pearing, err -- pairing.
Unibroue La Fin du Monde
Medium bodied with high carbonation the La Fin due Monde has a robust head
There's a lot going on here. The aroma is fragrant and fruity, so much so that one panelist advised drinking it out of a bottle instead of a wider-mouthed glass. "It could wind up being too fragrant," the taster advised.
Once it's past the lips, it starts lightly malty and evolves with notes of clove and pockets of pepper. The high alcohol content is obvious and came across as "spicy," but the heat of the ethanol is well balanced by the ale's full flavor.
Aptly described by one of our tasters, "This is a beer lovers 'summer beer,'" another taster summed things up more plainly: "I could drink this beer all day."
La Fin du Monde French-to-English translation means "the end of the world," and this ale would make a perfect addition to any six packalypse.
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