Otto Ale

Victory Otto Ale. I approve.

So, this now exists:

In 1987, when we arrived in Bamberg, Germany for the first time, St. Otto was not there to greet two thirsty travelers in a rented Fiat. He’d been dead for 848 years but we were alive, and our recent visit to the Belgian brewery of Orval only fanned the flames of our desire for fermented pleasures. The smoked malt (β€˜rauch’) beers of this lovely town where St. Otto was once Bishop were our siren song, luring us into deep, exotic flavors that we never before imagined in beer. Three decades later we wondered what smoked malt might add to a Belgian-style dubbel ale. Here is it, an Otto revival of sorts. We hope it helps rejuvenate some of our brain cells that were martyred in Bamberg so long ago. – The Brewmasters of Victory

If anybody in PA would be kind enough to send me some, I’ll gladly give you my mailing address.

Email me.

Bought a new car

Drove up to North Carolina this weekend for the Durham Beer Festival. Somewhere along the way, the transmission in my 2001 Impala decided that it was time to destroy itself, presumably in a fit of angry rage. I presume that it was rage and it was angry from the sounds that came out from the thing about 80% of the way here. I would have honestly never believed that the cruise control could actually cause it to redline the thing, but the proof speaks for itself. Regardless, it was dead-on-my-arrival.

So after some thinking, and talking it over with my dad, I decided that enough was enough. I did love the Impala, but all good things must come to an end. So after 9 years and 74000 miles (I don’t drive much), I traded it in. Got a really good value for it too, especially considering that it probably had negative value given the blown transmission.

Put that money down toward a 2010 Ford Fusion. Used, but only 19000 miles on it, and in excellent condition.

Obligatory pictures:

I like it. The Sync isn’t playing well with the iPhone, but I’ve learned that this may be an iPhone software problem. Maybe I’ll upgrade it soon to solve the issue. Notably: Plugging in the iPhone kills the USB connection on the Sync system entirely. I had to pull and re-insert a fuse to reset the damn thing. No worries though, automotive hacking is one of my older and less-used hobbies. Never had to actually upgrade software in a production car before, but it worked without too much effort. Anyway, the thing works with Bluetooth for now, so as long as I don’t connect it via USB, it’s fine. Bluetooth audio streaming works perfectly well.

So I’ll be driving back to Memphis tomorrow. The triangle is fun, but not really that much fun. I’ll be glad to get back to Memphis. πŸ˜‰

How to Taste and Describe a Beer

It occurred to me that some of my friends don’t really know how to taste and describe beer properly. Even my wine friends, descriptive as they are, are pretty poor at describing beer. The methods of tasting are not all that different, really.Β  There’s more of a snobbery surrounding wine and some of people are loathe to come down to the beer world, even though we beer snobs are far bigger jerks. πŸ˜€

But I figured that I’d try and educate some people on the proper way anyway. What the heck, eh?

There’s four steps to tasting a beer. To make it fun, let’s make them all start with the letter S. πŸ™‚

1. See.

When a beer is poured it produces a foamy head. This head usually dissipates quickly, leaving behind a bit on top called the “lace”. This same lace remains on the sides of the glass when drinking the beer. Hold up the beer and take note of the color as well. These are all descriptive aspects that help in understanding of the beer.

  • Color describes the malts used, or the brewing process.
  • The amount of foam describes the carbonation.
  • How it dissipates describes the thickness or heavyness of the beer.
  • The amount of lace describes the freshness of the beer, the freshness of the hops used.

2. Swirl.

Yes, damnit, swirl it a bit, like you would a wine. This agitation pulls out the scents and carbonations from the brew. It also tests the head retention, which gives you more info about the lacing.

3. Smell.

Smell the beer, obviously. Something like 80-90% of taste is actually smell. It’s the most important part of tasting. Breath deeply of the beer through your nose and then, yes, through your mouth as well. The combination of these two gives you the best experience of the brew. Describe the scents you have. Wheat beers, for example, are often fruity or citrusy, usually because the brewer adds these types of ingredients specifically. Hops have a distinct odor, of course, but different types of hops smell different. Cascade hops (the most common type) smells completely different from fuggle hops, for example, and they are used in completely different types of beers.

4. Sip.

Take a sip, swirl it around your mouth a bit. Don’t swallow right away, let it warm up a small amount. Important bits to remember here:

  • Mouthfeel. You see this one a lot in beer circles. What does it feel like? What’s the texture of the beer?
  • Consistency. Does the beer change a lot as you taste it? From beginning to end of glass even.
  • Breathe out while the beer is in your mouth. This increases the flavor experience. Really. Google “retro-olfaction”.
  • What does it taste like? Salty? Bitter? Sweet? Acidic? Oily? Fruity? Beer can taste like just about anything, think of what it’s similar to. Describe what it would go with.

Now, once you’ve done this, describe the beer. Here’s an example for PBR:

Clear golden color, with a 3/4 inch thick white head, which quickly reduced to a minimal thin lacing. Pleasant but subdued scent, mostly sweet lagered malts. Slight amount of grain flavors, with subdued grassy hop undertones. Minimal bitterness. Somewhat fizzy in apperance, but only lightly carbonated flavors. Crisp and dry mouthfeel, with a slight hint of oilyness when warmer. Overall clean flavor, very light malts used. Good session beer, would be excellent with stronger beef or spiced chicken flavors.


Weekend update

So you might have noticed the pictures I posted this weekend. Well, actually, you didn’t until this morning because my blog was broken and so the “live” pictures got sort of stuck between Flickr and the site.

Still, I sent a few from the weekend to try to get into the whole picture blogging thing again. It’s always a lot of fun to snap some shots, and since I got Flickr posting them to the blog instantly, I figured I’d give it a shot this weekend while I was at the Publympics. Paul emailed us all asking for judges, and I volunteered. Hey, free beer and lots of pain? Sign me up!

One thing I did learn was that if I’m going to be outside in the heat all day drinking, then wearing sunblock is not optional. The other thing I learned is that it is actually possible for a human being to sweat beer like in one of those Gatorade commercials. Beer. Is it in you?

On the whole, a good time. I don’t recall who won, but quite frankly, everybody won. By the end, I don’t even think there were enough teams still around to do the tricycle races, and so I left just before that point. When they busted out the yards and started chugging (not on the list of events, BTW), then I figured that it was all over bar the puking.

Heavy college deja-vu.

Beer festivals are a wonderful invention…

How can you go wrong with a beer festival?

I mean, it’s truly a brilliant idea to start with. You take about 5000-7000 people, pack them into a park area roughly the size of a city block, then give them unlimited free beer for a few hours. Taster glasses, of course, because we’re not here to get drunk but to try new and different brews.

So I went to the Raleigh Beer festival this weekend, and tried, oh, about 70-ish of the beers that were available. Lots of local brews, which I was happy with. I did not know North Carolina had so many microbreweries, but there were freakin’ dozens of them represented there.

The entire crew at the Raleigh Beer Festival

Met some new people, had dozens of people compliment me on my choice of t-shirt (good choice dad!), and had a lot of quality brews.

Notably good was the beer from Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, NC. Their Blueberry Wheat was excellent, and I quite liked the Old Well White too. The Leaderboard Lager was quite good as well, albeit a very plain and simple beer. Something you could drink a lot of, a quality lager. I sampled most of their beers, and those really stood out to me.

The Foothills brewery from Winston-Salem was excellent as well. I worked my way through their entire lineup that was there, and it was very good all around. The Pilot Mountain Pale Ale was extremely good for a simple brew, and their IPAs were awesome as well. The Hoppyum was quite hoppy in particular, but the double IPA that they had was extreme in this respect. I like IPA’s, but after a few of them I feel like I’ve been chewing on grass for a while, so I appreciated their Pale Ale a bit more. Also, I’d been to the Dogfish Head booth a number of times already, and their 90 minute IPA had already done a number on me there.

Mimosas The next day we got mimosas.

The girls (and Rob) got theirs with pomegranate juice. I needed my OJ fix a bit too much for that sort of thing.

Also, note to self, cherries have hard pits in them that are not tasty to crunch.

Anyway, good time all around. Would have been perfect if Northwest had not screwed me over on the flight home to the tune of 3.5 hours worth of delay, but still I had a good time. Rob and Mandy’s place is awesome, and I hope to go back sometime soon. If only to visit Top of the Hill and try all the rest of the excellent beers that I missed out on this trip. Plus, gotta try that pool out. πŸ™‚

Just my luck…

Right when I decide to leave town for a few days, the state decides to screw me.

Tennessee is having a sales tax holiday from April 25th through April 27th. I guess they do this for school supplies and clothing and such, but that would not stop me from taking advantage… except that I’m going to be in Raleigh, NC for the World Beer Festival that weekend.

Oh well, I guess a weekend of quality beer drinking is way better than getting a new wardrobe on the cheap.

Anybody else reading this going to the festival? Or any other beer festivals? Leave a comment, let me know.