New Angles on Old Tricks: The Classic Pale Ale

December 20, 2012

With all of these funky new beers, many of which were unimaginable even a few short years ago (and I say that as a guy with a vivid imagination when it comes to beer), I often forget that a good pale ale is one of the true treats of the beer world: delicious; low enough in alcohol to drink several without causing the world to spin, yet flavorful enough to thoroughly enjoy; and strikes the right balance of bold flavors and drinkability for a craft beer neophyte to enjoy. Few things make me happier than seeing the inroads Sierra Nevada has made with marketing its flagship Pale Ale. No matter how lame the bar is (and I have been in plenty of lame ass bars), these places will usually now carry Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale as a sop to beer snobs like me. No matter how lame the pizzeria (or now that I am in Texas, a taqueria is more likely), they usually have a few bottles of it handy, or better yet, a tap devoted to it.

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Terrapin Station

October 22, 2012

Grandpa Jones approves of this beer

While in Florida recently, I stumbled upon some beers from Terrapin Brewing Co. Their beers are not available in Texas, at least in my experience. That made sense to me, as I assumed the brewery was located in Maryland and I just figured they had not made it this far south and west of the Mason-Dixon line until I looked them up and discovered they are from Athens, Georgia. While their unavailability in Texas makes less sense, as Georgia is not as far from Texas as Maryland is, the the real lesson here, as always, is that I am an idiot.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale – This pale ale is nicely balanced, with some fairly assertive floral hops and earthy and caramel malts. It has a 5.5 % ABV, so it is a nice session beer. That is the second time I have used ‘nice’ to describe this beer in as many sentences, and that is the best I can say for it. It blandly inoffensive, certainly drinkable, but nothing to get excited about. I had hoped for more flavor from the rye malts, but it was not to be. Good, but not great, 6/10.

Terrapin Easy Rider Hopped Up Session Ale  – This one is bit more interesting. It is very aggressively hopped, with lots of flowery and citrus flavors and aromas mingling together, and packs a lot of flavor for a beer with only 4.5 % ABV. It has a sticky mouth feel and a crisp and bitter finish to it. There is no real malt profile to speak of here, but I am o.k. with that, 6.5/10.

Insert Dennis HOPper joke here

The Evolution of the Craft Beer Renaissance: Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

August 16, 2012

1989: {Calling Mr. JK on the Phone} Dude, I had the best beer ever! Deschutes Red Chair Pale Ale! It is amber colored, has all these cool flavors, and tastes like nothing I have ever had before! And get this: It comes from the Pacific Northwest where all those cool bands that Hag listens to come from! Awesome! What? Fuck you, I know the Cowboys suck, Jerry Jones is an asshole, and Jimmy Johnson doesn’t know what he is doing…they are on TV now? Damn it, the phone cord is not long enough for me to reach the remote, I gotta go!

1998: {AOL Instant Message to Mr. JK} Hey, I tried this beer the other night, Deschutes Red Chair Pale Ale, from Oregon, so you know it was great. Some brewery called Deschutes. Lots of hops in it. Bitterest beer I have ever had. It was excellent. …Sorry, someone just called my phone and my internet connection was lost for a few minutes there. What do you think of this Lewinsky chick?

2003: {Email to Mr. JK} Hey, I tried this beer from Deschutes called NorthWest Pale Ale. I think they are trying to establish ‘Northwest Pale Ale’ as a specific genre. It is ok, I have had better, but I would definitely drink it again. Lots of hops, and lots of malts, nice color to it too. On another note, the Return of the King reviews are awesome, we need to go see it soon.

2007: {Text Message to Mr. JK} Pckd up 6 of Dschutes NWPA, ok stuff, not much else at bodega, sort of wild card to find. Need anything else for bbq/

2012: {Mr. JK reads my blog} I recently tried Deschutes Red Chair Northwestern Pale Ale. It pours a somewhat hazy copper color, with a strong aroma of grassy bitter hops. It tastes a bit sweeter than it smells, but that initial sweetness gives way to a soapy burnt flavor on the back end. This is a beer that has most of the component parts to be a decent drink, but does not quite put it all together. Everything seems to be operating at cross purposes, and it just never tastes quite right. It is not awful, 5.5/10, but it is a beer I will not be revisiting any time soon, as there are many better beers out there to drink.


I would have loved this in the past, but now it is just Meh

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.

Austin’s Independence Brewing Co.

December 3, 2011

If you are reading this, chances are that you are a beer dork.  If by some weird twist of fate you have stumbled upon this blog and are not a beer dork, but are thinking, “hey, getting into a craft beer is a hobby I might enjoy” I implore you to back away from the computer screen, and go grab yourself a Miller Genuine Draft.  Being a beer dork is a lonely existence, as it is rare to find anyone who shares not only your love for good beer, but also your precise flavor profile.  How often have I met someone who knew their way around a beer menu only to discover that their love of beer is focussed on lambics and brown ales, and they dislike the hoppier English-American hybrids that I favor?  Actually, that has never happened, but it could.  And if you are a guy, forget about meeting a woman who shares your love of good beer.  If you do, she will be one of the following: a) married;  b) seeing someone c) not into guys in general; d) not into you specifically;  e) under the impression that Blue Moon is a Belgian beer; f) some combination of the above. Read the rest of this entry »

Ska Brewing Euphoria Pale Ale

December 22, 2010

The version of The Harder They Come that Jimmy Cliff sang in the movie is not the same version that was used on the soundtrack.*  The lyrics are slightly different, and the performance is remarkable.  Listen to that silky smooth guitar line snaking through the song, and Jimmy’s most soulful vocal performance.  I love the version on the soundtrack, but the movie version is better.

The Euphoria Pale Ale by Ska Brewing is silky smooth and easy drinking, with just a mild grapefruit bite from the hops, perfectly balanced by the toasted caramel malts.  Only 6.1% ABV, so you can drink a bunch of these at a sitting.  The folks from Ska Brewing not only have good taste in music, they make some damn fine beer also.  I am giving the Euphoria Pale Ale a 7.5/10, and am on the lookout for other offerings from Ska Brewing.

* The Harder They Come is the greatest soundtrack album of all time, and if any of you are thinking of making an argument that The Big Chill, or, god help us, Footloose is better, please leave my blog and don’t ever come back.  However, to show how magnanimous I am, I will listen to arguments made in favor of Valley Girl.

Anchor Humming Ale

October 27, 2010

This is a dry, crisp ale that is hopped up enough to be classified as an IPA, but is easy drinking enough to be a pale ale.  The hops are not all that bitter, more mango sweet than anything, and at slightly less than 6% ABV, you can have a couple of these at a sitting.  The Humming Ale tasted remarkably bright and fresh and vegetal, with plenty of flavor.  It tastes like a summer beer brewed for the autumn.  Unfortunately, it also appears to have been a limited release.  A few days after trying this, I went back to my local beer emporium to grab some more, and it was entirely sold out, and the diminutive Chinaman who runs the shop told me “No More! No More!”  If you find some, grab it, because it is a good one, 8/10.

Check out this interview with Fritz Maytag, the founder of Anchor Brewing, and the grandfather of the American Craft Beer Movement.

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