by the dawns early light.... (depends on how many you had the night before I suppose)
It is perhaps fitting that the American national anthem goes to the tune of an old English drinking song.
A couple of weeks back I invited some fellow Beoir members to my house to try some of the American craft beers I had brought home. I had 20 bottles myself, although one was Sam Adams winter lager which everyone had tried before so it was mostly skipped over. This consisted of the 18 bottles I brought back from the US and two Bells beers my wife brought back for me (she stayed longer).
There were three attendees and myself. Two others could not make it in the end which was a good thing as it meant the four of us got a decent sample of the beer. It was also a good mix because myself and BeerNut are Irish and then we had two Americans consisting of Adam and Richard.
Since I have already talked about the beers I brought back myself, this post is about the beers that the other guys brought that I had not tried before.
First up was Adam's offering of Vrienden which is part of New Belgium Brewery's Lips of faith series. It is a collaboration with Allagash who I have never come across before.
Vrienden is in the style of Belgian spontaneous fermented beers also known as Lambics of which Cantillon would be my favorite. Hibiscus and endive (some sort of Chicory type plant). I have no idea what either of these taste like in general so I can't say if I could pick them out of the beer.
Unlike a proper lambic, this is not actually fermented using spontaneous fermentation. Instead a hand picked wild yeast & bacteria cocktail was added in the same way a modern commercial yeast strain would be. Brettanomyces & Lactobacillus are the little beasties in question.
The result of this wild fermentation fakery is a pleasant bubblegum infused beer with a fair bit of sourness but plenty of sweetness as well. There did seem to be a lot going on, in fact I think there was just too many different extremes battling for dominance that my pallet just gave up. I did get some pineapple if it helps.
I will not rule this one out, I think a beer like this might require more than a small glass measure to try it. A full bottle next time I come across it then. It may not have been the best beer of the night but it wins hands down for being the most interesting and discussed.
There is something aesthetically wrong about Craft beer in a can. Dales Pale Ale was one of Richard's contributions. Oskar Blues has the distinction* of being the first craft brewery to put their beer in cans. We will get to the can issue in a moment.
The beer itself was actually very good, surprisingly so in fact. It was more on the bitter end of the scale than some of the more balanced and sweeter American pale ales. In actual fact I would rather like to have a steady supply of this as a fall back beer.
Now briefly on to the issue of canned beer. The big problem is that beer that comes in cans is traditionally rubbish. It is far more complicated and expensive to can beer than bottle it so micro breweries have always bottled. From a technical standpoint I think Cans might have a certain edge over bottles for many styles of beer.
- Can's are cheaper to produce once the investment of the equipment is in place.
- They are lighter, so save on transport costs as well as being more convenient for consumers.
- No light can get in and skunk the beer.
- Kegs are giant cans so if it's good enough for draft, it's good enough for home drinking.
- You can bring cans to music festivals where allowed but never bottled beer for obvious safety reasons.
- You can fit more info on a can.
- Not aesthetically pleasing - This may be more down to not being used to good beer in cans.
- Cans are probably less able to handle pressure (internal and external) so naturally conditioned beer is probably out of the question.
So the conclusion? For me I have to say Cans might be better, but I would rather have my craft beer in a bottle please.
Finally 22 or 23 beers later, possibly some homebrew in there somewhere (might have been after) so maybe closer to 25 we finished off our mammoth beer session with one of the Sierra Nevada 30th anniversary editions. This time around it was the Grand Cru, a deliciously drinkable strong ale. Quite boozy but with enough pacific north west hops to make it unmistakably Sierra Nevada. Being at the end of the night, there was little chance of serious note taking so "Tasted Fantastic" was the best I could do.
It was a great day and it did not quite get to the stage of singing drinking songs.
Thanks to the guys that made it and thanks to those that brought beer.
Richard also brought a bottle of Racer 5 IPA but we did not drink it as we had all had it before. That of course meant I had it all to myself a few days later....
*I'm not sure I agree that distinction is the right term here.