Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sometimes Even We Go On Vacation

Sorry for the lack of notice, but a road trip came up rather suddenly and it is very difficult to publish this thing from a moving vehicle. I need to get me one of them super-fancy cell phones with full keyboard and internet access, I guess. Though, I suspect corporate may deny the reimbursement request. Anyway. In the coming weeks we'll publish some reviews of the awesome beer we acquired. But, first, we need to tie up a few loose-ends around here.

Central Waters' second Brewers' Reserve of the season is a Bourbon-Barrel Barleywine. A version of their Kosmyk Charley's Y2K Catastrophe Ale (our review can be found here) aged in Bourbon Barrels for one year. Expect there to be some earthy, woody, booziness to one of Central Waters' premiere beers.

Appearance: thin, bubbly off-white head quickly forms and dissipates over top of a deep coppery brown quasi-viscous body
Aroma: sweet and alcoholic, like a not-so-mild bourbon whiskey
Flavor: bright and bourbony, does not taste blended at all; a malty, roasted caramel attack; the bourbon-barrel flavors overwhelm any malt complexity; as the beer warms in the glass, the malts begin to assert themselves more and even some hops begin to poke through
Body: medium, boozy body, with lingering flavors that beg to be sipped
Drinkability: strong and boozy at first, mellows into a whiskey as it warms, then its malty beer base asserts itself
Summary: while fresh off the shelves this beer has already been aged for one year, the bourbon is almost overpowering and can benefit greatly from further aging; this beer changes significantly from cold to warm, yet its complexity is ultimately overshadowed by the unblended bourbon barrel aging - we bought two bottles of this, and maybe when we review it again next year or the year after it will have mellowed a bit

Speaking of (barley)wines. The awesome San Franciscans at Beer at Joe's have pointed us to a must-read article at Vinography about pairing food with wine. The gist of the article gets to one thing that I constantly preach: this is not rocket science - do not be afraid to experiment, and drink what you like.
Lie #1: For any given food/dish there is a "perfect," "ideal" or "correct" wine pairing.

Lie #2: There are a ton of mistakes and pitfalls out there -- lots of wines just "don't go" with certain foods and vice versa.

Lie #3: Because of #1 and #2, food and wine pairing is an art that is hard to learn, requires deep knowledge, and generally is best left to experts.
I can't say it better: "[T]he single most important variable in the success of wine and food pairing lies completely out of the control of every sommelier and chef in the world. And that variable is me, you, and every single person that sits down to a mouthful of food and a swig of wine." If you like American light lagers, drink a Miller Lite; but don't be afraid to experiment. Next time, try a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with that pizza; try a Fuller's London Porter with your chicken; try an Ayinger Kristal Weizen with your steak salad. If you like it, great; if you don't, the worst case scenario is you are five dollars poorer. If you are someplace like Maduro or Brasserie V, do not be afraid to ask for samplers before you buy.

In other words, at the end of the day, it is only beer. Find out what you like. The experts are paid to be experts and they can tell you the differences between a Kristal Weizen and Berliner Weisse, but they can not tell you if you will like one or the other; be wary of any that purports to do so - they may say that they prefer one over the other, but the sommelier or bartender has no idea if you will like it or not.

One last bit of news: Miller will be expanding distribution of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy to 40 of 50 states this summer. I can't say I'm suprised, Miller is going to ride the Leinkugel's "crafts are hot" thing for as long as they can. The fact is Leinie's is still a mere shadow of what it was and Brewery Creek (in Mineral Point) makes a shandy that you can actually taste the component beer and lemonade.

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