July 5, 2012

Drew’s Brews: The End is Near . . .

Editor’s Note: Beer-o-matic man Drew is back with another edition of Drew’s Brews, where he sings the beer fantastic.

It is no secret that a phenomenon of disastrous proportions looms over a certain grouping of true believers out there, who seem to believe that the Mayan calendar points to the end of the world or that some grandiose cataclysmic event will unfold when we reach December 21st of 2012—thus reaching the end date of the 5,125 year cycle Mesoamerican calendar system. Whether you are devoted to the numerological and astronomical events that must align for this impending apocalypse or a person who enjoys the camp value of bad Armageddon blockbuster films and marketing to your specific fears, I have a beer for you. The good people at the Elysian Brewing Company are just as excited and/or apprehensive and celebrate and/or reject with you. Perhaps they are exploiting fears and capitalizing on what many refer to as pseudoscience, but it gives them just the excuse they need to countdown with 12 session beers of the apocalypse. Every month as we approach 12/12, Elysian Brewery releases a new beer in the series paired with some inspired artwork. So, here’s what I’m drinking currently as I prepared for the end: “The Rapture” a 7.65% beer with high country heather tips in the mash that are then added again at the end of the boil. It was the second release of the series. The Rapture pours a deep golden color and has a smooth nose and taste with floral honey and piney herbal scents. There is a nice balanced flavor combining sweet fruit and honey with bitter flavors and hops. A nice session series but getting harder to find, as it is a limited release. And although I enjoyed my trip to the Elysian Brewery on Capitol Hill in researching the apocalypse and the beers around it, I much prefer the wild game day atmosphere of the Elysian fields public house or Tangletown’s cozy neighborhood vibe to the actual brewery.

While we play on the darker side I wanted to share a sad note (well, at least sad in the beer-scheme-of-thing). My good friend and local home brewer saved the last bottle of his last session pale ale just to give me for my birthday. He held on to it for nearly 4 months waiting to see me. He gave it to me last weekend and I was delighted. Unfortunately it punched through a damp paper grocery bag on the trip home and shattered at my feet. I stared at it for several minutes as the flip top rolled in a circle among the corpse of broken glass—what a foamy shame. In memory of this fine beer I never had, please, everyone reading this, enjoy your favorite Pale Ale and share a comment of what you had. It’ll be a virtual toast to Luke D. and those lost beers that slip through the cracks.

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May 30, 2012

Drew’s Brews: Nice Honkers

Editor’s Note: In this episode of Drew’s Brews, Drew visits the windy city and blows right into a brewery. Who would have guessed that would happen?

When thinking of the mid-west beer culture, usually the first thought is of gallons of mass produced lager being guzzled in losing efforts at Cubs games. I wasn’t aware of any craft breweries when I planned my inaugural visit to CHI Town, so I decided to do some research. My buddy from college was getting married and luckily has good taste in beer; the rehearsal dinner and meet up were planned in a brewery (I knew we were friends for a reason). He took us to Goose Island Brewery in the heart of downtown Chicago. The mission this company was built on is the idea that changing what the mid-west drank would require the patron to be a part of the experience. Opened in 1988, the concept was for the people to see the process to gain an appreciation for it and grow their palate in the process–and it worked. Goose Island cranks out some serious beers: in addition to their standards and seasonals they offer a vintage collection, sours, and bourbon-aged beers.  They have blown up in Chicago and the demand is great; they’ve just opened a second location right next to Wrigley Field. I tasted the gauntlet of what they had to offer and enjoyed them all. At the end of the night, to answer the Spiked Punch age old question, Honkers is what I’m drinking. This is Goose Island’s take on English style ale. Somewhere between an ESB and an Amber you find some nice Honkers. Pours a rusty copper with a thick beige head resting on top.  Scents of warm fresh bread, some mild hops, and a bit of a tart citrus twang. The body is crisp with a moderate carbonation backing, but still retains a smooth, creamy feel.  Nice bitter backing from a good hop presence–overall, a very balanced beer. This is my style of beer CHI Town, well done. I wish I had access to this locally. With the low ABV, I could see this being a regular in my house.

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May 16, 2012

Drew’s Brews: Beer Tour

Last summer I decided to add some of my favorite breweries to my West coast camping road trip. My squeeze and I were leaving Seattle and headed south to see what we could see as well as drink what we could drink. Collectively visiting Elysian, Hales, Fremont, 7 Seas, Silver City, and Pyramid Brewing in a two month stretch,  we became determined to see how many different breweries we could conquer. We plotted a map that navigated us past some well-known camping areas and brew pubs. One last pint at Maritime then we filled our growlers and headed south. We drove through Oregon tasting Ninkasi, Deschutes, and Rogue beers. From there we conquered many of the fine ales California has to offer from 21st Amendment, Russian River, Anchor Steam, Magnolia, and North Coast breweries. It is fun to see and taste the different styles and varieties of a region. Every brewery had its flagships and standouts from fresh hops to aged in barrels, simple solutions, and complex concoctions. This brew tour has now become a past time of mine and a must when I visit new cities. I like to experience a place through food and drink rather than your typical site seeing. What better way to experience a new town than eating and drinking with the locals? Beer people open their doors and soon their conversation to you. A few pints in and you have access to the past, present, and future. You also get the true feeling of a place. There is a certain passion in craft beer from the brew master who is often perched at the bar to the consumers sat all around you. Hunter S. Thompson said, “Good people drink good beer, no shit. Just look around any public barroom and you will see: Bad people drink bad beer. Think about it.” I formed bonds sipping suds in different villages from East to West. This year I have experienced tastings in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Chicago. And as I continue to visit breweries and taste their fare I will share, best I can through the internet anyway. Suggestions welcome.


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May 2, 2012

Drew’s Brews: Pucker Up Sour Puss

Editor’s Note: Beer-tertainer Drew Webster is back to beer-ducate you and beer-xplain the finer points of the beverage you love and call beer in another Drew’s Brews.

Sour beer is not for everyone. If you poured someone a sour without telling them they might have trust issues. However, if you were to discuss their palate and the complexity of beers available and then ease them into tasting sours in small amounts you might convert them into a beer dork.  Craft brewing is a booming business and there is a need for breweries to stand out and make bold beers that venture from tradition and borrow beer styles from abroad. Based on flavors usually found in parts of Europe like England, Belgium, and Germany most sours mimic Lambic and Saission varieties, to name a few. To get there, some American brewers use their flagship ales and blend their creation with aggressive Yeasts that changes the profile of the beer. The different temperatures used in brewing create unique and bold flavors that are crisp, sour, sweet, or spicy, which they blend with their base beer ingredients. There is a lot to it and it is fun to taste a variety of these artesian style beers.

If you have never tasted a sour beer or did but didn’t like it try doing a tasting flight with someone who can describe the beer or buy a set to try in succession at home. I always suggest Russian River, one of my old stand-by breweries, as a good starting point. They produce a line of “Belgian Inspired” beers that range in color and sourness beginning at mild and going to dark and high sourness. Buy a few and share with your friends. I recommend Damnation for starters (mild and light), followed by Temptation and finish with either Consecration or Supplication depending on what is available in your area. You may have to check out a craft beer store or nice bottle store to find them.  If you are up for tasting a bunch of sour beers in Seattle with people who will appreciate them check out Sour Beer Fest at Brouwer’s Café in Fremont May 17, 2012. Now in honor of Spiked Punch, here’s what I’m drinking: I will heed my own advice and go for the Consecration from Russian River. Very unique standout of the series. This reddish brown beer should be enjoyed in a snifter or short taster. Go slow with it. It is a blend using dark malts and mixed with those powerful yeast components in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with a bit of Cab to make a fruity tart berry taste in your mouth. Nicely balanced acids go down smooth and awaken your senses–yum. Give it a try if you think you’re a brave beer drinker.

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April 18, 2012

Drews Brews: We CAN Do It

Editor’s Note: As mentioned on the first Drew’s Brews post, these posts are written by wild and witty Drew Webster, who is a beer expert and who you should listen to if you like A: beer, B: fun, and C: beer.

For a long time, it was widely known that cheap beer was served in cans and glass was saved for premium beers. In recent years, however, there has been a role reversal and seemingly something of a can revolution. Aluminum canning has improved with the aid of materials and technology, and the new canning process includes an internal water based coating which actually prevents the beer from ever touching the aluminum and keeps the beer from taking on a metallic taste. There are many benefits to canning craft beer to both the consumer and the brewer. Cans are eco-friendly, easy to pack and carry, they chill faster, and they don’t break in storage. Most important to the beer drinker, canning preserves the purity of taste. Notice how many beer companies will use brown glass bottles to prevent UV light from affecting their beer; canning eliminates the dangers of light damage or oxidation occurring in packaging which means you get a tasty beer–every time (see big can image below for more can info). Craft beer snobs frowned at first when seeing more cans. I suppose something like the way a wine connoisseur feels about a loss of romance with synthetic corks, but it’s caught on in a big way. I personally credit Oskar Blues Brewing Co. for leading the way when they decided to pack their flagship Dales Pale Ale in a can. The concept of putting a big flavorful beer in a can was unheard of before the millennium. Today everyone is getting on board, from coast to coast you can find gold medal winning beers surrounded by aluminum. Some breweries only do cans and draft now.

Craft beers are being canned in 44 states across the US. There are 178 breweries producing 551 brews currently—so many tasty brews, what should you try (Craft Can Count courtesy of craftcans.com). Well, most of my favorite are dark and dirty but seeing as the sun is out it is time for lighter fare. In typical Spiked Punch fashion, Mama’s Little Yellow Pils from Oskar Blues Brewery is what I’m drinking. I love the comedic value of this beer and it may just be the “little yellow pills” my Ma was popping–which would explain a lot about me. This golden yellow beer pours smooth with a thin white foam head. It smells crisp and fresh and tastes the same with an earthy citrus finish and holds a nice balance of bitter but stays smooth with a nice aftertaste. It’s perfect for sipping on a spring afternoon in the sunshine with your feet up. Most American versions of the popular Czech beer are watered down and made with corn and rice but this one is their signature pale malt mixed with special German malts and Saaz hops for a unique American/Czech hybrid you can drink any day of the week. So go try one and join the revolution, you CAN do it!

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March 28, 2012

Drew’s Brews: Old Rasputin Imperial Stout

Editor’s Note: Somehow, the Spiked Punch HQ was broken in to recently, and the whole staff was taken hostage by a thirsty beer-monger named Drew. He wasn’t looking for money, but did demand I let him write about beer on the site. Beer? I like beer! Really, not such a rough demand. The fact that Drew (Webster) knows a heaping hop-full about the beer, and writes in a way that will make you want to drink more (which is another thing Spiked Punch is all about) made relinkuishing some posts easy. And yes, I said “posts,” as the plan is for him to stop by to talk the beer with some regularity. So c’mon back.

My good friend and drinking companion A.J. Rathbun has decided to allow me a forum to vent my love of my drink of choice. Drew’s Brew will be a blog feature for beer news, drinking locations, beer reviews, and events. It may not be as glamorous or elegant as some of A.J.’s fine cocktails but beer has grown up a lot since the days of mass produced gallons of watered down knock off Pilsners and Lagers drowned this country in bland mediocre beverages.

Homebrew, craft breweries, and micro brews are growing faster than ever and we, the people, benefit. I want this blog to speak to you, for you, and with you, beer lover. Let your voice be heard! Post comments and leave suggestions and responses to the beers we discuss. Beer is truly the drink of the people (Editor’s Note: Drew does not speak for the editor). People love to drink cocktails and wine but unless they are well versed in mixology or have earned their Sommelier accreditation they are hesitant to tell you what they enjoy and why. Beer drinkers will happily tell you what they love to drink and why. Everyone’s opinion is valid in beer tasting, if you don’t believe me just go to Rate Beer where anyone can sign in and rate a store, beer or brewery based on their experience and pallet.

We are so fortunate to have so many great beers at our fingertips in the great Pacific Northwest. Because of this, I will offer up local digs in Seattle, but also (when I’m on the road) other locales, to point you toward bottle stores, breweries, or eateries with great taps. But I also want to hear your voice. And, in true Spiked Punch fashion, I will also include what I am drinking. A.J. turned me on to one of his favs, Hilliard’s, earlier this month but tonight I am in the mood for an “old reliable,” one of my all-time favorites: Old Rasputin. I enjoy this beer so much I stopped by the North Coast Brewery where it’s made in Fort Bragg, California on my road trip back from Big Sur last summer. Tucked in a sleepy coastal town outside Mendacino, this brewery makes some of best beers you have never heard of. Old Rasputin is an Imperial Stout that drinks smooth. It has a roasted malty flavor with hints of chocolate and coffee hidden in the aroma that rises into your nose as you take that first sip, breaking the surface tension that separates the dark black liquid and the tan creamy foam that sits thick on top. There is a great balance between sweet and bitterness in this complex but smooth sipping beer. A must try for anyone who loves a tasty stout on a cold dark night. You can find it at most quality bottle stores—in the Seattle area, for example, you can pick it up at Bottleworks in Wallingford, Beer Junction in West Seattle, or my favorite, Chuck’s on 85th (in the N. Ballard area).

–Drew Webster

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