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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Best Beer For Your Buck

What's the worst thing about craft beer? That's simple: the cost. Compared to Budweiser, still among the priciest of the megabrews, most craft beers are at least a third more expensive. One can get an 18 pack of Bud Light for about $15.00 or so, while that price might get you a decent 12 pack of a beer with actual flavor. So this month the BOTB Guys, always thinking of our loyal readers, decided to find out what might be the best craft beer for your buck. There are caveats to this, of course. As I have pointed out countless times, we here at the BOTB Institute To Commemorate Hops (BOTBITCH) are unrepentant Hop Heads. So if your particular leaning is more to the Belgian style or malty stouts, you may not entirely agree. That's okay. We'd love to hear from you regarding what might be the best Stout for your buck or Belgian for your buck (please, no Blue Moon). Chime in in our comment section or on our Facebook page.

But first...


When we travel, one of the things I like to do is Google breweries or brew pubs around the area we are traveling to. Not too long ago this would have been a rather fruitless endeavor unless you happened to be traveling to the West Coast. Often you'd come up with some bar with an intriguing name like The Brewery only to find that not only did they not brew beers there, but the only beers this place had were the typical mega-brews. However today it seems that almost any city of any consequence has some decent brewpubs which either brew their own or have on tap a wonderful variety of craft beers. And Texas has seen as big an uptick in craft beer as anywhere in the country.

My wife and I recently took an excursion to Galveston and San Antonio on our way to our semi-annual trek to Sierra Vista, AZ to visit number one daughter, son-in-law and now three grand kids. My wife, practically perfect in every way, does have one flaw: the only beer she ever drinks is light beer. I love her anyway. We all must learn to accept the fact that we are all flawed individuals in some way. Besides, I don't ever have to worry about her drinking my beer. Despite her disdain for the hoppy side of life, she indulges me on our excursions to various breweries and brew pubs.

So this month I'll talk about the first part of our Texas two-stop. What I like to call: 


When I Googled Galveston for brew pubs I found very little. Falstaff beer was once brewed here. Falstaff was brewed by Pabst for a while, then Miller until sales dropped too much, and now it's gone. The two best known Texas beers are Shiner and Lone Star. I did have a Shiner Bock at a restaurant, feeling that I should at least have it once while in Texas. It would be kind of like going to Ireland and not having a Guinness. As far as Lone Star went though, your choices are Lone Star Lager and Lone
Star Light.  I left them both alone.

I did find a place called Beerfoot Beach Bar which claimed to be "...your stop for fantastic  craft beers..." with 30 on tap and another 75 bottles. I decided to find this place. As it turned out, it is not an easy place to find if you are unfamiliar with Galveston. I kept asking where I could find it and kept getting conflicting directions. It apparently is not on the Galveston Chamber of Commerce approved list of establishments. This, of course, made us even more determined to find the place. Ultimately we did, basically by walking for miles along the seawall  until we spotted it. 

Beerfoot Beach Bar is a tiny, no-frills bar that, when open, is indeed open. The entire front slides up like an overhead garage door on warm days, affording a view of the seawall.  If you're looking for elegant atmosphere, look elsewhere; if you're looking for a great selection of beers with a fun and knowledgeable staff located across from the Galveston Seawall, this is the place. Based on my
admittedly limited time up and down the seawall, this is the best place for craft beer. A real nice selection. They do brew a new beer each week. When I was there the beer was Kylie's Kolsch. Not a particular fan of Kolsch beers, I had a sample of it and found it easy drinking, but not my mug of beer, so to speak. Kylie was behind the bar and admitted that she was not a fan of hoppy beers, so this particular one was brewed with her in mind. I did have a few others more to my liking:

Jabberwocky Imperial IPA from Lone Pint Brewing. Listed as 114 IBUs, it is indeed a hop head's wet-hopped dream. 8.2% ABV, so it's got a kick to it. Excellent beer. Lone Pint is located in Magnolia, TX.

- Lost Gold IPA from Real Ale Brewing out of Blanco, TX. A good IPA, but I had it right after the Jabberwocky which made it tough. 6.6% ABV and 63 IBUs meant there wouldn't be the hop kick of the previous one. A good beer nonetheless.

- Big Swell IPA from Maui Brewing. Another good beer, though probably the weakest of the three in terms of hopnicity (a new term I coined, so I think I'll trademark it or something). 6.8% and 50+ ABV. Comes in cans. Enjoyable beer. I got it because when we were in Hawaii a couple of years ago I kept hearing about it, but was unable to obtain any. Every bar was out. I had to go to Texas to get it. Ironic.

Next month we'll take a look at San Antonio where there was a plethora of craft beers and this guy:

Best use of a 12 pack of Coors light

What's the Best Beer for Your Buck?

We at BOTB love a challenge. The latest came with a question posed by one of us: "What's the best beer for your buck?"  Finding the cheapest beer is easy. Just go to the mega-brew section of your local grocery store. But there's a reason they are cheap. And you can taste it (or to be more precise NOT taste it) in every sip. But we wanted to know the best beer for the least outlay. We set a limit of $9.00 for a six-pack. Each of us took this assignment seriously and each came in with (at least) one selection that met the criteria (the criteria being, specifically, two fold: 1. Good Beer, 2. Under $9.00 per sixer).
The cheapest by far were a couple samples of Samuel Adams. They were: Double Agent IPL (from their Hopology series) and White Lantern - both donated by Sam Adams for us to review. Thank you once again Boston Beer Company. For those we purchased, the price range was from $7.99 to $8.99 per six. Regardless of the fact that the beer was donated, they both met the necessary requirements.
We opted to review the beers starting with lowest ABV and moving to highest. We have found that sometimes trying a "big" beer then trying a smaller one often isn't fair to the lower ABV selection. The bigger beer tends to overwhelm the smaller one. Ergo, we started with Otter Creek's Hop Session Ale at a mere 4.25% - not an IPA but not a Bud Lite either.


THE BEER FACTS:  Brewer: Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, VT; Style: American Pale Ale; ABV: 4.25%; IBUs: 35; Cost: $8.49 per six at Wegman's.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS:  "Our web site is currently under construction." Oops.

COLOR:  Cloudy honey

POUR: Decent head, tight forceful bubbles, with nice lacing. It seemed a little too carbonated

AROMA: Aroma of British-style yeast with grassy, straw scents detected

BODY: Medium

TASTE: It has a fairly balanced opening with a nice, clean finish. There are citrus/grapefruit overtones.


COMMENTS: "A nice, pleasant beer; A good session beer; A good clean taste - maybe a little bitter finish; It could be a lawnmower beer; Great taste for a 4.25 percenter; A light ale with taste - fantastic; Nice with a barbecue."


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams); Style: India Pale Lager; ABV: 5.0%; IBUs: 43; Malt: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend and Munich malt; Hops: Zeus, Simcoe, Citra, Ahtanum, Cascade, Centennial, Nelson Sauvin; Cost: $7.99/six

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Full of the bold grapefruit & piney character of an American
IPA, this brew also reveals its smooth lager side creating a balanced, flavorful brew."

COLOR: Wheat to honey amber (10 SRM)

POUR: Thick creamy lasting head with great lacing

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Just a little on the sweeter side of balanced, with notes of citrus, spices, and pine


COMMENTS: "Clean taste; It's a real good lager; I really like the spicy taste; Not big - not objectionable - a nice change of pace kind of beer; Sam Adams makes a lot of beers and very few of them are objectionable; It is lively in your mouth; This is a lager for ale lovers."


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams); Style: Wheat white ale; ABV: 5.5%; IBUs: 10; Malt: Samuel Adams two-row malt blend, wheat, Ida Pils; Hops: Spalt Spalter Noble hops; Cost: $7.99/six

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "White ales have a long history of unique ingredients, as Belgian brewers experimented with spices discovered during the spice trade. For our hazy  brew we created a
refreshing combination of crisp wheat, the tangy sweetness of tangerine & orange peel, and the subtle spiciness of coriander & Grains of Paradise."

COLOR: Unfiltered wheat (SRM:10)

POUR: A bit better than a decent head and nice lacing

AROMA: Grassy, with a Belgian yeast aroma

BODY: Thin

TASTE: Fairly sweet and like lemonade, with notes of citrus

OVERALL IMPRESSION: We would "Leave It On The Shelf" 

COMMENTS: "Okay, we spoke too soon about Sam not having an objectionable beer- but maybe this is the exception that proves the rule, whatever that means; Tastes like lemonade; Maybe it could be a cooking beer; This one is definitely not for us - 10 IBU puts it down in Budweiser territory - but I'm guessing some people out there would like it; It is definitely one of the more disappointing Sam Adams."


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Long Trail Brewing Company, Bridgewater Corners, Vemont; Style: India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.9%; IBUs: 42; Malt: Two-row, Caramel; Hops: Nugget and Cascade; Cost: $7.99/six

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "...Our traditional IPA ale is naturally carbonated, dry-hopped &
unfiltered like the old days."

COLOR: Unfiltered honey colored

POUR: A decent head with nice lacing

AROMA: Of grass - earthy with a light pine aroma

BODY: Medium

OVERALL IMPRESSION: "I could drink this!"

COMMENTS: "This is a standard IPA; It's been there a long time; A beer to judge other IPAs by; It has a hop presence that I don't care for - probably the nugget hops; It's a predictable IPA; It's not an over-the- top-in-hops IPA." 


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Boston Beer Company, Boston Mass.; Style: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.0%; IBUs: 60; Malt: Samuel Adams two-row malt blend, Caramel 60, Gambinus Honey Malt; Hops: Hallertau Mittelfrueh, East Kent Goldings, Zeus, Simcoe, Ahtanum; Cost: $7.99/six.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our new 2013 release introduces Mosaic hops from Washington to  our select blend of German, English, and American hops, all grown close to the 48th Latitude."

COLOR: Copper (SRM: 20)

POUR: A bit better than Decent head with a nice ecru lacing

AROMA: Citrus hop

BODY: Between medium and full - favoring medium by a nose

TASTE: Fairly well balanced for an IPA. There are notes of pine and grapefruit with a nutty malt in the middle.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "This should be on tap in more places; ...With the 'Deconstructed' taps side by side; You could just sit and drink this stuff all day; I consider this one of Sam Adams best beers; It is one of the best, period; It has a nice full body that just fills the mouth; It hits all the notes; I do think it's the best beer they make."


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Ashville Brewing, Ashville, NC; Style: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.0%; IBUs: 69.3; Malts: Pale, Wheat & Munich; Hops: Columbus & Traditional; Cost: $8.49/six.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A crisp, citrusy Indian Pale Ale with a light color, Shiva will
destroy all your preconceptions of an IPA. A transcendentally simple malt bill accents a generous helping of Columbus hops, lending an intense floral aroma with hints of grapefruit and a pleasant buttering quality. Your palette will be lifted to higher planes of consciousness with a bittersweet finish."

COLOR: Unfiltered cloudy honey (3.7 SRM)

POUR: A bit better than decent, with a big, off-white head

AROMA: Earthy/bready

BODY: A bit fuller than medium

TASTE: Bitter, hoppy with notes of pine and citrus/grapefruit


COMMENTS: "Serious hops flavor; Fills your mouth; It is complex on the tongue; There's a lot of stuff going on with this beer; I Could Drink This!; There are similarities between this and Latitude 48; It has a nice bitter finish."


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Style: IPA; ABV: 7.2%; IBUs: 65; Malts: Two-row Pale, Caramel; Hops: Bittering - Magnum / Finishing - Magnum, Crystal, Citra; Cost: Just under $8.00/six.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Sierra Nevada and hops go hand in hand. What began as a crazy idea scribbled in a pub eventually became our newest year-round hop bomb, Torpedo Extra IPA. The first
beer to feature our 'Hop Torpedo' - a revolutionary dry-hopping device that controls how much hop aroma is imparted into beer without adding additional bitterness. Torpedo Extra IPA is an aggressive yet balanced beer with massive hop aromas of citrus, pine and tropical fruit."

COLOR: Copper

POUR: A decent head, which dissipates rather quickly

AROMA: citrus-y

BODY: Toward the full body side of medium

TASTE: Bitter/hops with a malt backbone for balance.


COMMENTS: "This makes a great winter warmer; It's become an old stand-by beer; This beer is a party in your mouth; Torpedo will blast most IPAs away; It's called 'extra' for a reason; It tastes big, but it really doesn't have a huge alcohol content; There's enough malt to give it a nice full flavor; Sierra Nevada on the West Coast and Sam Adams on the East - both seldom disappoint."


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Long Trail Brewing, VT; Style: Strong Ale ABV: 7.2%; IBUs: 39 Malt: Two-row, Wheat, Chocolate & Caramel Hops: Northern Brewer, Willamette & Mt. Hood; Cost: $8.69/six

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This malty, full-bodied double alt is also known as 'Stickebier' - German slang for 'secret brew.' Long Trail Double Bag was originally offered only in our brewery
taproom as a special treat to our visitors. ...named Malt Advocate's 'Beer of the Year' in 2001."

COLOR: Unfiltered amber

POUR: A moderate head

AROMA: Banana scent, indicative of English yeast

BODY: Toward the full body side

TASTE: Malty sweetness, with notes of banana


COMMENTS: "This beer makes me happy: It's a big beer: It's not over-hopped; Up with the malt-up with the alcohol; This would make a good dessert beer; This is a good beer; You have to appreciate it for what it is; It reminds me of a Scottish ale"


THE BEER FACTS: Brewer: Great Lakes Brewing, Cleveland, OH:  Style: English style India Pale Ale ABV: 7.5% IBU: 70 Malt: Harrington 2-Row Base Malt, Caramel 30. Hops: Simcoe, Wilamette, Cascade. Cost: $8.99

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Named for the naval officer and War of 1812 hero who battled the
British enemy on Lake Erie, our Commodore Perry India Pale Ale had a pretty dry sense of humor...If you drink him, you'll instantly earn his respect. And when you're dealing with the Commodore, respect means a lot."

COLOR: Wheat to light amber.

POUR: A full, off-white head, withnice lacing

AROMA: Citrus/grapefruit hops.

BODY: Fairly full bodied

TASTE: A little on the bitter, hop side, with notes of grapefruit and a malt backbone


COMMENTS: "Damn good beer; Great Lakes brews some great beers; This has a nice balance without forgetting its hoppy routes; Good hop kick but balanced with a full-bodied malt backbone."

Okay, so we checked out all of these brews and gave our opinions. The big question was this: which gave us the best beer for our buck? In the end, each of us ranked the nine beers one through nine. It was quite amazing how similar we all were in our choices. We then tallied the results and came up with the following:

1. Torpedo Extra IPA
2. Latitude 48 IPA
3. Shiva IPA
4. Commodore Perry IPA
5. Otter Creek Hop Session
6. Long Trail IPA
7. Long Trail Double Bag
8. Sam Adams Double Agent IPL
9. Sam Adams White Lantern

As far as the cost goes, all fell within a dollar per sixer of each other. So it really just came down to preference. This is, of course, a small sampling of good beers for under the $9.00 a six pack. The larger craft brewers are able to keep the price down due to volume. And as is obvious, we leaned heavily toward IPAs because that's the way we roll. Perhaps in the future we'll look at the best Stouts for your buck (but definitely NOT the best light beer for your buck - there's no such thing.)
Make no mistake, any one of these "cheap beers" has more taste and character than any fizzy, yellow beer from the mega brewers.


Next up: our second in a series by our Southern correspondent, giving us the lay of the craft beer landscape from Down Under (the Mason-Dixon line that is). This month, Alex travels to Melbourne in fact (Florida, that is) to give us a peek at a South Florida beer that packs a punch.

By Alex Mack


Swamp Ape
Florida Beer Company
ABV: 10.5%  IBU: 85

Welcome back to the Rebel Yell, where we have the enviable job of introducing our friends around the country to the beers of the South. The last time around we took a look at Sweetwater's 420 Extra Pale Ale, a beer that has absolutely blown up in popularity down here since the first post was written. This month we are taking a trip even further south into the Sunshine State.

As far as craft beer goes, Florida is far more known for Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa than any other company. Don't get me wrong, Cigar City has some fantastic beers, but we are here to expand your horizons. On that note, allow me to introduce you to the Florida Beer Company, located in Melbourne, Florida. This is a brewery known for their Key West series (Sunset Ale, Pilsner Light, Southernmost Wheat - all lightweight, low IBU entries) but they do stray away from this stigma for our beer of the month. Today we look at Swamp Ape IPA, an aggressive beer, as you might guess from the 10.5% ABV and 85 IBUs. I will be honest and say this wasn't my favorite IPA, but at the same time it was far from the worst. At 10.5% ABV it packs a punch that can sometimes feel welcome at the end of a long day. It contains strong hints of pine and citrus. The taste of the alcohol is not completely hidden in the beer, but at the same time it is by no means off-putting. My overall opinion is that this beer is for those braver souls looking for a little more than just a good beer, but maybe a little bite to go with it. Heed my warning: when the Swamp Ape strikes, you are going to feel it.

From the brewer: "Firsthand accounts describe an intense beast with a potent aroma and bite. Proof that the elusive mystery monster exists? Or proof that brewing with five distinct varieties of hops creates an unbelievable, relentlessly hopped India pale Ale? One taste and you'll know, Swamp Ape is real."


Next month we take a look at Bombers - those 22 oz. bottles which more and more craft brewers are including in their arsenal.

The BOTB Guys