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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Rye Comments

Microbrew Mecca

The West Coast is the Mecca of Microbrews. Look, I'm an East Coast guy and love the terrific craft breweries on our side of the continent (as well as those in between), but I have to bow before the wonder that is the West Coast. California, Oregon, Washington. You would be hard-pressed to find a bar or restaurant that doesn't have at least a couple of good craft beers. The craft beer movement began on the West Coast and there is a sense of pride in this. Other parts of the country, you can walk into a restaurant and ask if they have a good IPA only to be greeted with a blank stare. On the West Coast the look you get is more along the lines of "Are you kidding? Of course!"

My wife and I just returned from a week in Los Gatos (a beautiful little town not far from San Francisco). Before we left I Googled craft breweries in and around San Francisco. The resulting search produced a bounty of amazing breweries: Anchor, 21st Amendment, Rogues, Pyramid, Lagunitas, Thirsty Bear, Speakeasy, Southern Pacific - to name a few. Breweries and brew pubs sprout up there like dandelions on a spring lawn.  Needless to say, I enjoyed some terrific beer.


The St. Ives Conundrum

As I was going to St. Ives
I met a man with seven wives;
Each wife had seven sacks;
Each sack had seven cats;
Each cat had seven kits;
Kits, Cats, Sacks and Wives
How many were going to St. Ives?

The answer, as many of us know, is "one." Only "I" was going to St. Ives and along the way crossed paths with this group headed in the other direction. Unless...
-What if the narrator, walking alone, overtook this rather unwieldy group also headed to St. Ives. Well, in that case the number would be 2,802 (unless you don't count the narrator or the "man with seven wives" since the last two lines reference only "Kits, cats sacks and wives." In this case it would be 2,800). Or...
-Is the answer 2? The narrator merely said he met a man who had seven wives. He does not say that the wives and their various accouterments were on the road with him at that time. Or perhaps...
-The answer is zero. How so? Look again at the last two lines. The narrator references only the kits, cats, sacks and wives. If they are heading away from St. Ives then none of those mentioned are going to St. Ives. And yet...
-Could the answer be 2,752?  After all, sacks are not living entities. Or maybe...
-Nine is the answer. Is the narrator referring only to humans? (or seven if you apply the principle referenced twice earlier).

Facts are Stubborn, but Statistics are More Pliable - Mark Twain

The point of the above exercise is to point out how language and statistics can be manipulated to say pretty much whatever you want them to say. This manipulation of language and the use of statistics ("There are lies, damned lies and statistics" -also Mark Twain) have long been the tools of the trade for Madison Avenue. The advertising industry, once some level of government oversight was created, realized that outright lies wouldn't fly anymore and sought ways of making claims without really making them. Using questionable statistics continues to be right up there among the favorite ploys. "Special Morning - 33% more nutrition." More nutrition than what? A bag of M&M's? A box of rocks? Doesn't say. It's a classic example of an unfinished claim coupled with fishy statistics.

So when Miller Beer claims to be "triple hopped" what exactly does that mean? Well this is a great example of combining statistics with what is known as the "water is wet" claim. This particular bit of sneaky advertising makes a claim that sounds like it is exclusive to that particular brand, but in fact is true with virtually all brands. A great example was the old Folger's Coffee claim of being "mountain grown." The ads made it sound like this was an attribute unique to Folgers when, in fact, ALL coffees are mountain grown - that's where coffee beans grow best.

So when Miller makes their "triple hopped" claim (a claim that is a running joke among craft beer aficianados) what they are saying is that they are doing with Miller what pretty much all brewers do with all beers, have three hop additions: one for bittering, one for flavor and one for aroma.

It sounds like they are saying that there is three times the hops as some other beers. Yet Miller has an IBU barely out of the single digits (12) and anyone who knows beer knows that IBU's are related to hops. So theoretically, you could use a single hop flower in 100 barrels of beer, run the beer through it three times and call it triple hopped.


"Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, 'It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."  
                                                                       -Babe Ruth

Thought I'd give Sox fans (Dan)
equal time.
Alas, finding a day for our monthly BOTB meeting which accommodates seven guys with seven wives is often a daunting undertaking. Negotiating around work, trips, weddings, family obligations and holidays to pick the ideal weekend for a meeting where all and sundry can attend sometimes is just not possible. All of us at one time or another over the last couple of years have been unable to attend a meeting. This month it was Ron, our intrepid record keeper. As a result I had to do double duty - both compiling the information and writing the blog. Woe is me. Ron we miss ye.

But soldier on, we must. This month we finally accumulated enough Rye IPAs to put together a worthwhile competition. So without further ado, let's start off with...


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 8% ABV; 80 IBU;  Brewed with 18% rye malt; High gravity IPA

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Hop Rod Rye has a floral hop aroma and subtle caramel notes with a slightly earthy and spicy rye character.

POUR: Decent head

COLOR: Amber

AROMA: Floral hoppiness

BODY: Full

TASTE: Nice bitter hoppy finish. Grapefruit with a nutty, malty balance that gives this a rich, somewhat complex character.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Oh, yeah! Can't Get Enough.

COMMENTS: "Oh, that is good; We should only review IPAs; You know how to improve on this? A bigger bottle!; This is GOOD beer; Worth opening another; You can't beat it!"

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."
                                                       -Lyndon B. Johnson


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Unfiltered black rye IPA; 8.3 ABV; 80 IBU; Color 45; MALTS: Pale, Malted Rye: dash of Cara-rye, Midnight wheat from Briess, De-bittered black malt, Dash of Wookey dust!; HOPS: German Magnum, citra and Amarillo.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Rich, dark malts and spicy rye careen into bold, citrus laden hops creating a new dimension in IPA flavor.  At 80 IBU, Wookey Jack is gnarly on the outside yet complex and refined on the inside.

POUR: Near Guinness class - thick and rich

COLOR: Deep mahogany - almost black. Unfiltered. 

AROMA: Cascade hop piney

BODY: Toward the full/rich end of the spectrum

TASTE: Big citrus hop flavor with a nutty and malty backbone.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't get enough!

COMMENTS: "I get a nice hop right off the bat, then a malty finish; I COULD DRINK THAT!; That is one gorgeous head; Firestone Walker has an impressive lineup; That Wookey Dust must be the secret to this beer; I could drink this beer all night long; Ron, it's a damn shame you're not getting any Wookey - after all, a growler opened is a growler drunk!"

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I give up reading."
                                                                         -Paul Hornung


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 6.9% ABV; 70 IBU; Color - 28 EBC; MALTS: Pale, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, Vienna; HOPS: Centennial, Chinook, Falconer's Flight.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This beer is brewed with hops, a variety of malts, our proprietary yeast - the same yeast we've used since first brewing Harpoon Ale - and more hops. A lot more hops."

POUR: A little better than decent head 

COLOR: Golden, hazy, unfiltered

AROMA: Fruity, citrus-y, spicy rye aroma.

BODY: We placed it a bit beyond medium bodied.

TASTE: The most balanced thus far, leaning toward the hoppy/bitter end a bit. Strong malty, nutty middle mellows out the hops. Finishes with a grapefruit, citrus after taste.


COMMENTS: "It's good, but it's not the Hop Rod or Wookey; It's a lot lighter in color than the others; I get no strong aroma of hop in this one; I like this so much better than Harpoon's regular IPA; It's a little more balanced than the others we've had; More of a session beer than the other two; This is a scary beer because you can drink a lot of it because it is very smooth."

"When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!"
                                                                           -George Bernard Shaw


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 6.6% ABV; 70 IBU; MALTS: four imported Belgian caramel malts, rye malt; HOPS: Amarillo

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Serious hop bitterness, along with an unyielding grapefruit bouquet from the Amarillo dry hop, balances the malty richness of four imported Belgian caramel malts."

POUR: Better than decent tan head.

COLOR: Unfiltered crimson.

AROMA: Big grapefruit/citrus aroma

BODY: Between medium and full.

TASTE: Way out there on the bitter end of the scale with a strong grapefruit/hop taste balanced by a nutty, malty background.


COMMENTS: "The color's great!; Nice lace; It's got a deliciously hoppy bite; The rye imparts a softness to the finish; It's not as hopped up as the Hot Rod; Similar to Cascazilla."

"You can't have a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."
                                                                   -Frank Zappa


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 5.95% ABV; MALTS: Two-row, Rye; HOPS: Hallertau, Saaz

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "An IPA with a wry twist, Saranac Rye IPA is an aggressively hopped brew sure to take your taste buds on an adventure. We've stepped away from the mold of typical IPAs and selected premium rye malt and a unique mix of spicy hops. Look for a crisp, brazen finish." 

POUR: Not much of a head, some residual lacing.

COLOR: Pale wheat color.

AROMA: More malty than hoppy.

BODY: Somewhat less than medium.

TASTE: Halfway between balanced and bitter. Citrus notes with a light malt underpinning.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: I could drink this.

COMMENTS: "Tastes like their pilsner; Real bitter finish; We drank this out of order - should have started with this; A lighter beer by far than the others; Not impressed with it; Almost a lager; Not a very complex beer."

"Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer."
                                                                    -Dave Barry


This was another of those BOTB meetings where we couldn't go wrong. All of these beers were very tasty and would be excellent additions to anyone's refrigerator. Having said that, however, we did generally prefer some of them over others. Each of us listed the beers 1-5 from our favorite to our least favorite. I then tallied the score and, as in golf, low score won. The final results were as follows:

Top choice was a tie between Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye and Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack. All six of us placed these as either our number one or number two choice. This was followed by Founder's Red's Rye IPA. It received 5 out of 6 third place votes. Harpoon got the other third place, and it came in fourth. Saranac was a unanimous fifth place. It's a fine beer, but in terms of complexity and big taste it just paled in comparison to the others.

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
                                                                  -Benjamin Franklin


We also had the opportunity to check out a couple of special brews sent to us by our friends at Sam Adams. Herewith is our evaluation of those.


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Gose (unfiltered wheat ale); 6% ABV; 15 IBU; MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Munich, malted and unmalted wheat; HOPS: Saaz Noble hops; SPECIAL INGREDIENTS: Coriander and salt.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A link to the ales of Saxony that have all but vanished, Verloren (translating to 'lost') is a peculiar yet captivating brew.The Gose style with its base of an unfiltered wheat ale is light and refreshing yet also has a softness to it. Verloren's flavor is brought to life by an unexpected touch of salt for a mineral quality, and coriander for a peppery spice."

POUR: Good solid head with staying power.

COLOR: Unfiltered honey color.

AROMA: Flowery

BODY: A bit less than medium

TASTE: Tends toward the sweet end with hints of citrus, lemon, yeast, wheat and coriander.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Halfway between "leave it on the shelf" and "I could drink this"

COMMENTS: "Snappy; A taste of lemon; You can taste the coriander, but not overpowering; I guess I can see the salt; A boat beer; Nice change of pace; Definitely a wheat summer beer - deck beer; I'd drink it if I was at Dan's and it was all he had."

"To some it's a six-pack, to me it's a support group in cans!"
                                                                -Leo Durocher


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Sahti (a Nordic ale); 7% ABV; 16 IBU; MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, rye, Special B, Aromatic malt; HOPS: Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble hops; COLOR: 30 SRM.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Deep amber in color, this rugged brew's distinctive aroma comes from aging on a bed of juniper berries. The herbal, woodsy and ripe citrus character of the juniper enlivens a sturdy and smooth malt background for a fresh and flavorful brew."

POUR: Almost a Guinness class head.

COLOR: Unfiltered deep copper to brown

AROMA: Somewhat sweet almost a caramel aroma

BODY: Full

TASTE: Toward the sweet end of the spectrum: malty, bready, nutty, hints of toffee and yeast.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Partway between "I could drink this" and "Can't get enough."

COMMENTS: "Boy it dances in your mouth; A lot like a Baltic Porter; Woodsy - that's what I'm getting; I like it; The more I drink it, the better I like it; Nice winter evening beer; Fireplace beer; A rich beer."

Next up we go a bit wild card as we choose brews from various breweries other than their flagship beers. I'm thinking there may be an IPA or two in the mix. Just sayin'...

The BOTB Guys