Summer’s Here and The Time is Right for Drinking in The Streets: Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils and Victory Prima Pils

August 21, 2012

What a drag it is getting old…

Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Oskar Blues is a crisp pilsner, slightly fruity smelling, mildly herbal and grassy tasting, with a pale yellow color and a quickly dissipating foamy white head. It pours crystal clear, and has a mild lemon zest flavor, with an aftertaste of mildly toasted grains. This is not a hop bomb, but no pilsners can make that claim. I popped this open after a run in the Florida sun and enjoyed this refreshing beer immensely, 7.5/10.

Prima Pils from the always excellent Victory Brewing is a bit different from the usual pilsner. Remember when I said that no pilsners can claim to be hop bombs? The Prima Pils almost makes a liar of me, as it is more aggressively hopped than is the norm for a pilsner. Beer purists probably object to this, because it fails to adhere to the standards set forth by the Great Beer Council of 1512, but I am ok with it. The flavor starts off mild and herbal before the grapefruit zest and black pepper hops kick in on the back end. I am not saying this a hop bomb beer, but it is certainly a hop bomb pilsner, making the Prima Pils a pilsner for IPA lovers. The 5.3% ABV is low enough to make this a good session beer. This is not the standard to compare other pilsners to, as it quite different, but it is delicious, 7.5/10.

Keely Smith’s Favorite Beer

Victory Headwaters Pale Ale

June 25, 2012

I am genuinely surprised that I have not already reviewed Victory’s Headwaters Pale Ale, as it has become something of a ‘go to’ beer for me over the past year or so. It is not a groundbreaker in any way. It does not push the limits of what can be defined as beer. It does not redefine the pale ale genre. It does not make me see visions of comely wenches lounging languidly as I drink and guffaw in my Falstaffian glory, and yes, there are some beers that do that. Frankly, it is not even my favorite pale ale, as the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is still my number one pale ale.

It may not be any of those things, but it is still a damn fine beer. The hops are assertive without being overpowering, and there is some malty sweetness on the back end to make this a nicely balanced beer. It is dry, crisp and refreshing, not heavy at all, and at 5.1 % ABV is an excellent session beer. This is the type of beer I would give to a beer neophyte in order to introduce them to the world of good beer, and yet is good enough to give to beer snobs, as I did with GEB a few weeks ago. Yet another fine offering from Victory, 7.5/10.

Victory Summer Love Ale

May 6, 2012

Fireworks, thunderstorms, the legs on that girl who worked the register at Swensen’s, baseball on the radio, fireflies in a jar, Gator taking the mound, crappy jobs that I have come to love in my later years, the smell of freshly cut grass, early mornings in the caddy shack waiting for a loop, Doc taking the mound, perpetually skinned knees and elbows, taking the afternoon bus to NYC, seeing concerts on the Pier, falafels at Mamoud’s, root beer floats from the Magic Fountain, bumblebees, helmetless bike rides, the chirping cricket thermometer, pizza from the Magic Table, pick-up baseball games at Stagg Field, skateboarding down Gavin Road, Grunning’s, getting lost in Turtle Back Rock, honeysuckles in bloom, ice cold beer.

There are not many things I’d change about the summers of my youth, but I would replace the Olympia (or whatever swill I was drinking back then) with a beer as good as Victory’s Summer Love Ale. I am not normally a fan of German style beers, but this is exceptional. It pours crystal clear, with a tangy, slightly bitter aroma. It has a mild floral hops flavor, just enough to give it some bite, but subtle enough to not be overpowering. It is crisp, refreshing, with just a touch of lemon zest in there and at only 5.2% ABV, you can have a few to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. I hope this is available all summer, as I’d like to drink it in the dog days of August, 7/10. Maybe this will be my beer when Darvish takes the mound. I doubt he will have a debut season like Doc had, but stranger things have happened. Now if I can just find some decent pizza in Texas.

Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

July 4, 2011

Fourth of July, 2008:  The Vinman and I load our bikes on the back of his Honda and drive to Philly for one of our urban bike tours.  As we head across the Ben Franklin Bridge, I begin to direct the Vinman to a parking lot on 15th and Spruce.  I want to park there because it is a central location and will give us easy access to the sights we want to pedal to, but there is a more important reason which will be evident later.

We bike up to Independence Hall, which is packed for the Fourth of July holiday, pay our respects to the Founding Fathers, catch a quick glimpse of the Liberty Bell, talk to some tourists, and then head out on the bike trail that snakes along the Schuykill River, stopping in Manayunk at the brewpub for lunch.  The Vinman begins talking to our bartender, and she tells him that Valley Forge is less than twenty miles from the bar.  The Vinman turns to me and says, “Do you want to make that ride?”  At this point we had already ridden about ten miles to Manayunk, and still had to ride back, so I mumble “no frigging way” between bites of my burger, before taking a big gulp of my beer.

We head back to Philly, taking a meandering route that swings us past the Philadelphia Museum of Art, before we turn to head back to the car.  I make sure that we head down 16th Street, so we can “accidentally” pass Monk’s Cafe.  As we pull up to the front of the bar, I say “Hey, wanna grab a beer before we go?”  The Vinman agrees and asks where?  I shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know, how about this place that we just happened to stop right in front of?  It looks pretty good.”

Monk’s Cafe has the best selection of Belgian beers outside of Belgium.  It is so renowned that a Belgian brewer, Brouwerij Van Steeberge, brews a Flemish Sour Ale for Monk’s.  At the time, it was available only on tap at Monk’s, and that is why I made sure that the Vinman parked a block away from the bar.  I wanted to make sure I got to try it before we left Philadelphia.  It poured a beautiful reddish color, with a fluffy head, tasted of sour cherries and tart green apples, and was a wonderful way to quench my thirst after a long hot bike ride.  We finished our beers, and the Vinman said, “should we have another?”

“Nah, let’s head out.” *

Flash forward to the spring of this year, and the Vinman comes down to Texas for a visit.  I see a bottle of Monk’s Flemish Sour Ale and grab it.  It was not as sour as I remembered the draft being, although the sour cherry and green apple flavor was still there.  The bottle was a bit of a let down when compared to my memory of the draft, but it was still quite nice, 7/10.

*Note the date: July 4, 2008.  That was the first and so far only time when I was the responsible adult in this situation.  Normally, if someone asks “Should we have another?” I say “HELL YES!” and am on my feet flagging down the bartender before the question is even finished.

July 4:  The anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence; Louis Armstrong’s Birthday; and the one time I was The Responsible Adult.

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