New Belgium Somersault

It’s no secret that I’m a die-hard New Belgium fan, and I have been since long before they were known coast-to-coast. I had a difficult time at first with Fat Tire in the beginning as I had not yet honed my tastes for good beer. I finally got off the corn/rice mix years ago and have been enjoying all the new beers New Belgium has to offer ever since.

A number of weeks ago I picked up a sampler with Somersault, the Summer Seasonal. Also in the pack was Ranger (IPA), Blue Paddle (Pilsener), and Dig (Pale Ale). I still have yet to try the Blue Paddle but I fear my temptation will win sometime this week. Anyway, Somersault, from the bottle:

SOMERSAULT Ale is a fun roll around on the tongue and a perfect, summer lounge-around ale that is easy to drink. Color is blonde with a suggestion of amber. SOMERSAULT tumbles out with citrus aroma from Centennial hops, a tuck of soft apricot fruitiness, completed by a smooth, upright finish with oats that were pitched in a long, slow mash. SOMERSAULT’s all around!

When I popped the cap this evening, strong hops hit me in the nose. It’s a dark golden color (that suggestion of amber they speak of) and a light carbonation, much to the same degree as Fat Tire and Ranger IPA. It’s a 5.2% ABV beer, which is the lowest of the seasonal brews. This is in part due to the lightness of a summer ale and is something I appreciate – no one needs more alcohol (a diuretic as you may well know) on a hot summer day. The finish is fruity, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s from the apricots. It’s got that type of fruitiness you find in Shock Top and Blue Moon, but not as strong and with no coriander. I’m sure that described is succinctly.

Somersault is that lounge-chair kind of beer and very easy to drink. I’m having a hard time writing because I can’t put it down. After the first, I noticed that my glass must have been very clean and it showed the quality of head on this ale. Look at that lacing!If you see it in the store or within a sampler, pick one up and enjoy! I guarantee you’ll like it as much as I do. If you don’t, I’ll buy your surplus of it.

Cheers!

New Belgium Dig

I fished around the house for something to drink tonight while I was writing and reading, but I didn’t want an Imperial ale or anything thick. I was also limited by what I currently had in the tiny beer fridge (the fridge is tiny, not the beer) so there wasn’t much to choose from. I’ve slowly been dipping in to the beers I have yet to review because I simply can’t resist. So far I have tried to stay away from a beer until I have the opportunity to review it as I taste it for the first time. I’ve been taking notes and pictures to post reviews later of beers I don’t take the time to write about yet. Dig is different because it drove me to write this tonight. I simply clicked “New Post” and started typing as I sipped. Here it is, disorganized and sincere, complete with a picture from my iPhone at the kitchen table:

Hoppy on the nose, awesome head retention. First sip: I am genuinely smiling. I’m a huge Ranger fan, but I can’t drink it every day for the sake of my palate. This has that clean hoppiness (hoppyness?) that I love about the Ranger IPA, but such a subtle finish that makes it damn refreshing (and palatable every day). If I swirl a bit I can taste a strong floral hop flavor, and not much malt. Something is toasted. Dig is related to Fat Tire in the mash tun.

Keep in mind that I don’t read any reviews or much description about a beer before I review it.

Such a perfect pale ale! At my table tonight I wish I had an overly warm spring day to complement this experience. It is such a joy to drink this beer. I think it would be a great idea to review this again on-camera. I can talk about this for twenty minutes. And no, New Belgium has not offered me anything for this glowing review. Not that I’d refuse a free glass, hat, shirt, or a parking space at the Asheville facility.

Clear skies, bright sun, light breeze. The time of year where the sun is warm but the air is still cool. The part of spring that’s perfect because the gnats have yet to make their appearance. Sitting on the deck out back, watching the kids play in the sprinklers. Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. Friends and neighbors over, and all is well. This is the beer for that day. And that evening. At 5.6 ABV Dig is appropriate for multiple servings at social occasions.

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Dig is a seasonal spring ale, and soon it will be gone. Somersault is out by now, which tells me that I should have tried Dig before today. I was reluctant to get a 12-pack and waited until I found it in a sampler with Fat Tire, Ranger, and 1554. Let me tell you – it’s worth the 12-pack.

I don’t even know what to close with. It’s bedtime and I want another one. I want spring to stay. I want everything to remain bright and new, and everyone joyful and just out of the winter’s dim mood. I can dig that.

 

Review: New Belgium Shift

I tweeted the other day about comparing canned to bottled beer, assuming that I would be able to get the Shift Pale Lager from New Belgium in both packages.

According to this article, though, Shift is only packaged in a 16-oz can. New Belgium is putting Fat Tire and Ranger IPA in cans (12 and 16 oz) as well as the 12oz bottle, so I’ll definitely get to do a blind bottle-to-can comparison.

In the mean time, here are my thoughts on Shift:

The initial nose-in-glass gives a likening of Ranger IPA – the finishing hops are very present to begin with (Shift and Ranger IPA have Cascade hops in common). Head retention is awesome – like that ocean fizz that hangs around for days. That could be the last bit of conditioning in the can showing off, though. Great stuff.

This brew is somehow especially appropriate for the end of a long day. It’s not too filling or overpowering in mouthfeel, yet at 5.0% ABV it is difficult to say it’s not a perfect beer for a Tuesday sunset. And one 16-oz can is enough, especially if it’s before dinner. It has a palate friendly bitterness at 29 IBU, so it won’t ruin supper – you could even start eating before you finish it. I did.

There are so many pale brews out there that one could partake in the early evening – it’s difficult to say which one I’d pick over the other. Being me, I’d choose the one I’d never had before. If the choices were smaller, Shift would definitely be at the top of my considerations.

Again – I don’t quantify my beers, so you’re not going to get a number score. New Belgium continues to impress me with their products and their love of the craft and the culture. They’re serious about what they do and it shows. I recommend Shift to anyone who likes a crisp, cold, palatable beer after work. It’s way more rewarding than anything from the big three.

Cheers!

Bud Light Platinum Pseudo-Review

I don’t think I’m going to be able to review this one. It’s simply a matter of principle – Bud Light Platinum is not craft beer. It comes in a blue bottle – wait – make that cobalt blue (wha..?) and tastes like Bud Light and claims to have “top shelf taste”. It’s 6% ABV.

For some reason I had been led to believe that this newly-designed box had something to offer the connoisseur. I was wrong. You see, I only heard it from a few eaves-droppings and passings-by, and assumed it was another shot by Anheuser-Busch to reel in the actual beer lover (remember American Ale?). Turns out, I don’t have cable and didn’t see the commercial.

I walked into the gas station today (where else would I find it?) and looked for a single bottle or can to grab for a quick sample. I ended up with a 6.99 six-pack (more than Bomb Beer’s Helles) and thoughts of regret for wasting $7. My kid got Doritos, and I am now of the opinion that the two-year-old chose a bit wiser than his father.

It is, however, a bit warmer down the throat than normal. I mean, after all, they got it to 6.0% ABV, and still kept it from getting any darker than, well, Bud Light.

I expected to see more carbonation in the glass, but it wasn’t very active. It is certainly a clear lager, but why do they have to triple-filter it? Maybe someone who has seen the commercial can tell me what’s so special about it; I only imagine that they took out all the goodness to make it clear, crisp, and marketable. I’m trying to finish it off to reduce embarrassment when someone comes over. Maybe I won’t have a headache tomorrow.

I’ll take the dusty bottle from down in the cellar over “top shelf taste” any day of the week.

Bomb Lager Review

Today at the package store I discovered a stack of boxed six-packs that simply said “Bomb Lager,” and under the logo was CRAFT BEER. I’m only guessing that’s what caught my eye. The six-pack of 12-oz cans was $5.99 which, for craft beer, is rare. The guy at the checkout counter asked if I’d had it before, and I replied in the negative. “It’s not much different from Budweiser,” he said. Since there was no description at all on the box, I was purchasing on faith that this was actually craft beer and not some spinoff LLC from one of the oversized breweries. It’s not.

Bomb Beer Company is located in Manhattan and they contract with breweries across the country for production (Terrapin Brewery in Athens, GA started off the same way). Their Website is well done and they seem to be fairly responsive on Twitter, though the brewery is not well-known. They began distributing in Georgia in late February this year.

Their website says it’s a “traditional Bavarian Helles…” and that’s what we expect. I popped the first can this evening to find a well-carbonated, light-in-color Munich original, only somewhat comparable to a Coors or Budweiser (the lagers, not the lights). For those of you who don’t know, Coors and Anheuser (and Yuengling, Schaefer, and the lot) came to the U.S. from Germany and the area. The Helles is also from Germany and was created to compete with Pilsner from Czechoslovakia. What I expected was a light, fresh, clear lager that was perfect for the warm spring afternoon. I was not disappointed.

The Helles style was invented by Spaten, and this is a great specimen – light on the nose. There is a slight bitterness up-front but the finish is dry and balanced. In my opinion, this is better and has more mouthfeel than the traditional mass-produced American lager. After that, though, there’s not much left to say. It’s great to see a beer with the same drinkability as their hugely-mass-produced counterparts from a small craft brewer in the Northeast. I know that consistency between batches is a difficult achievement, and a beer this light is quite fragile and susceptible to many alterations. Bomb has done a great job producing this. I’m having another as I write, and the finish draws me to another sip every time.

I don’t review with numbers; the whole independent review is too subjective to quantify it. I like this beer and the style is spot on. I wouldn’t change a thing. The fact that it’s canned says that they’re looking to ship very far from the Northeast United States, and they should – or at least contract with more distant breweries for a further reach. At the end of a warm spring or summer day, I’d much rather have this than the stuff sold in 30-packs. It’s an inexpensive lager that is still worthy of a glass, and I’ll leave it at that while I have another.

Sweetwater Brewing Company Happy Ending Imperial Stout

My neighbor is pretty fit, but his washboard abs just aren’t appearing as one would expect of someone at his activity level. It’s his beer diet, and he has come to the decision to slow down the consumption and perhaps only enjoy a good beer on a weekend day. I don’t think that’s a horrible idea, plus there’s a budgetary reason also for not drinking several craft brews daily (imperial series at that). I figured I could go without beer every day too. I could just pick and choose beers at the package store, and bring them home to think about or keep for a rainy day. Then I found Sweetwater Brewing Company‘s Happy Ending Imperial Stout last night. I took it home and put it on the bottom shelf, behind the milk where I couldn’t see it.

Today went well until after lunch. I had gone for my daily run and was home eating a bite but found myself still hungry afterwards. I opened the fridge and I heard it calling. I couldn’t see where the noise was coming from but I knew exactly what it was. From behind the milk I heard a faint