Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils

I finally got a chance to try Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils Pilsner this week, and it just so happens that it was worth the wait (and the $10 for the six-pack). It pours a golden yellow (closer to hazel, I guess), telling you that there’s real ingredients in there. Like REAL pale malt and a proper amount of hops and love.

I’ve talked about Pilsner before on the show (we had Victory’s Prima Pils), and this is in the same style. Let me rephrase that: this is another Pilsner, but not a whole lot like Prima Pils. It’s more its own style, very far from megabrew quality and still not extremely Americanized with hops. It’s a delicate balance between light maltiness and a crafty-handed hoppiness. It would pair well with just about anything from chips & salsa to cold air, except chocolate.  I think they put it best on the site:

Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pills is an uncompromising, small-batch version of the beer that made Pilsen, Czech Republic famous. Unlike mass market “pilsners” diluted with corn & rice, Mama’s is built with 100% pale malt, German specialty malts, and Saaz hops. While it’s rich with Czeched-out flavor, its gentle hopping (35 IBUs) and low ABV (just 5.3%) make it a luxurious but low-dose (by Oskar Blues standards) refresher.

There’s an air of confidence we get when trying something we’ve never had from a brewery like Oskar Blues. They typically don’t go way outside the definitions of styles we expect to taste and they do what they do so well. They use quality ingredients, give back to the environment and to the community, and provide us with a superior product we can enjoy every day.

Oskar Blues should open their second location on the East coast by the end of 2012, and soon the cans I get might say “Brewed and canned at Oskar Blues Brewery, LLC in Brevard, North Carolina.” I can’t wait.

#mycraftbeerepiphany Newcastle Brown Ale

Some might not consider Newcastle Brown Ale to be craft beer, but it’s what did it for me. On my 21st birthday, my mom went to Colorado Springs to celebrate since I was in the Army and couldn’t make it home. I chose to go out to Red Hot & Blue for dinner, and that particular place was a brewpub. I ordered a beer as I explored my newfound legality, but whatever I ordered was simply too much for my palate. Heavy, dark, and hoppy is all I remember. A convert that night I was not.

Years later I found myself in a hole-in-the-wall pub in another area in Colorado Springs with a friend who was brought up in England.  He ordered me a Newcastle Brown Ale (Nukey) and I think I drank it from the bottle.  It wasn’t overbearing, and it didn’t smell like vomit.  It was served at a temperature somewhere in the 60s Fahrenheit, and it was so surprising that it wasn’t rancid.  I was hooked.

I still drink industrial beer every once in a while (on a hot day), but less and less often every year.  I just learned the other day that hop extract is in use more often now at the big breweries than real hops.  A beer made with hop extract, corn, and rice isn’t a beer at all, so I really should find a craft alternative to AB-InBev and MillerCoors, like the no-adjunct Bomb Lager (Helles) from Bomb Beer Company.

Quantities Abound

This project is finally coming to an end.  This isn’t intended to be a full-on review of the beers mentioned in the article but to illustrate a point: the mega-breweries do not produce a unique product.  I took nine different cans and compared them visually and by taste to see if any one of them stood out in any way.  Read on to learn what I did and didn’t do.

I don’t have a whole lot of notes; I didn’t really take any.  I tasted the Natural Light first, as it was simply the first in line.  The next, Coors Light, has a distinctly different taste to it than Natural Light, though that difference cannot be described in terms of ingredients.  I believe I could only tell this because I tasted them together.  The next, Coors, had just the slightest bit more body than the two light beers before, but still had that same old smell that American lagers have.

When I got down to the Bud Light, that familiar yet still indescribable taste was found, right where I left it in 1996.

 

Old Milwaukee somehow comparatively tasted like some cleaning solvent found in a motorcycle repair shop.  Seriously.

After my tasting that included spillage down my beard and onto my shirt, I concluded that the smell of bile is something they all have in common once they begin to get warm (I’m talking low 60s F warm, not room temperature).  That is simply something I cannot get over, and was not able to drink them all during the video/photo shoot in my back yard.

I must admit I wasted beer, but it wasn’t really beer to begin with.  I’m sure that at some point in the 19th and 20th centuries these breweries, while still separately owned and producing for quality, made something worth drinking.  I do not believe that to be the case today.  Enjoy craft beer and know where it comes from.  Get to know or read about the people who make it and make sure it’s good.  If you don’t know where to start, just ask me!

 

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!

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.