CraftBeer.com – “Dark Beer Myths Debunked”

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you may be asking yourself…

STEVE, WHERE IS YOUR WEEKLY BEER REVIEW?!?!

The answer is quite simple. This week we are not going to do a beer review. I apologize to anyone who is addicted to them. This week you will not get your fix.

Instead we begin what I hope will be a different direction with this blog. When I started writing for Vas Foremost, I knew where I wanted to take this blog. There have been a couple of posts (“Blind as a Beer” and “5 Easy Ways to Enhance your Craft Beer Experience) that showed just a glimpse of where I wanted to go. Both posts received great feedback and left people wanting more. Since then, I haven’t written anything beyond writing reviews. Hopefully after this post, that will change.

I look to craftbeer.com for our first look into educating ourselves about the wonderful world of beer. A couple of days ago they posted an excellent video entitled “Dark Beer Myths Debunked.” In the video Julia Herz, the Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, took us though three different myths associated with dark beer.

1) All dark beers are rich and heavy
2) Dark beers have more calories
3) All dark beers are higher in alcohol

I highly suggest you check out the video. It is short and will sum everything I would have hoped to say about some common misconceptions regarding dark beer.

Cheers to craftbeer.com and Julia Herz!

Check out the video!

YouTube – Dark Beer Myths Debunked

Craftbeer.com

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on TwitterUntappd or Instagram at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com. Visit his other beer blog at gardemybiere.com.

The Vas Review – St. Patty’s Day

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Green shirts, green beer and green rivers. Thousands of young twenty somethings claiming they are all Irish for the day! I guess that means it’s time to grab a pint of the black stuff, plop yourself at a bar all night and watch rugby with your mates (which is much closer to what the Irish do). Do yourself a favor this year and put down the artificially green beer and try something different. In this week’s Vas Review I offer up a couple of lesser known Irish-style ales.

Please remember to be careful on this St. Patty’s day and drink responsibly! 

 

Conway's Irish Ale

Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess…

Conway’s Irish Ale – Great Lakes Brewing Company

Style: Irish Red Ale

ABV: 6.5%

Serving: 12oz bottle (6-pack)

We all know Ireland’s most famous contribution to the brewing world: the Irish-style dry stout. The Irish also contributed a little bit lessor known but just as wonderful style, the Irish red ale. Most of you have probably heard of Smithwick’s, right? This would broadly fit under this category. Not limited to that beer, this style of beer can come at you from a multitude of directions. Our first review this week is one of my favorite Irish red ales, Conway’s Irish Ale from our old friends at Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Conway’s pours out a beautifully opaque copper with a glimmering reflection of the room in the glass.  Its aroma is filled with toffee candy and honey-nut granola cereal. Peanut butter cookie sandwich (Nutter Butter!!!) and a light feeling of Bazooka Joe bubble gum.

The taste reels in very similar to the aroma. A bubblegum flavor is backed up by a moderate bitterness. Balanced off of the bitterness is a toasted malty, toffee flavor. Conway’s doesn’t clock in too heavy having an excellent moderate mouthfeel. The flavors from the grain work incredibly well together here, meshing perfectly throughout. The finish borders on clean leaving behind a refreshed palette, ready for the next sip.

Conway’s is an excellent beer and certainly worth a try (it makes its way into my fridge every single year at about this time!). Be careful though if you plan to use this as an all-day beer. It weighs in at 6.5% alcohol by volume. Like most things in life, this beer is meant to be savored and enjoyed in moderation (and I wouldn’t have it any other way!).

 

Murphy's Irish Stout

…singin’ drunken lullabies

Murphy’s Irish Stout – Murphy’s

Style: Dry (Irish) Stout

ABV: 4%

Serving: 14.9oz can (4-pack)

Enough beating around the bush. We all know what beer most of us are going to reach for on St. Patrick’s Day. I won’t sit here and say that I personally don’t enjoy Guinness, because I do. I’ve been to the brewery and have had it straight from the source (for those of you wondering, Guinness does taste different in Ireland). We often forget that Ireland produces several other excellent stouts worth trying, some of which this author actually prefers. Murphy’s is one of them.

Murphy’s comes in a Draught Style can, meaning we are in for a treat. Watch in enjoyment as a waterfall effect cascades down the side of your glass turning into the deepest ruby red hue you can imagine. The aroma overwhelms the senses with chocolate, roasted barley and a rich black freshly ground coffee.

The first sip welcomes you with its creamy texture. The roasted barley holds in the background as a handful of coffee grounds goes into the pot. A bite of a chocolate bar and the unforgettable taste of a roasted marshmallow. Murphy’s has a little bit more to it than others. It has a tad bit more of a roasted bitterness characteristic adding to the beer’s depth. Light, yet full of flavor, Murphy’s ends with a creamy finish tickled with just a flake of roasted barley.

On St. Patrick’s Day this beer will be in my hand. Followed by a pint of Beamish, my other favorite imported Irish stout. The radio will be playing Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly or The Pogues. And it will be a good day…

 

Next week in the Vas Review: Back to the brewery spotlight!

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on TwitterUntappd or Instagram at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com. Visit his other beer blog at gardemybiere.com.

The Vas Review – The Classics. Act Two.

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

Few cultures can lay claim to having as much influence on beer as the Germans can. The list of styles originated in Germany seems endless. The country famous for the biggest party in the world (Oktoberfest) and its beer purity law (the Reinheitsgebot) also gave rise to a fermentation style that would come to dominate the world, cold or lager fermentation. In this month’s Classics I take you through two influential German beers. One that once saved a near extinct style, and one that still uses a historical malt drying technique.

 

Weissbier 1Schneider Weisse – G. Schneider & Son

Style: Hefeweizen

ABV: 5.4%

Serving: 16.9 oz bottle

Once upon a time, the Weissbier was king. But similar to a lot of historical styles, nothing gold can stay. After enjoying immense popularity during the 17th and early 18th centuries, the demand for Weissbier started to drop dramatically in the mid 18th century. If it wasn’t for a talented brewer named Georg Schneider, this style of beer probably would have become extinct. Give credit where credit is due. Thank you Georg Schneider…I don’t know what I would do without Hefeweizen….sniff…

Pouring out a Hefeweizen is a work of wonder. Carefully pour the beer down the side of a traditional Weizen glass at a 45 degree angle (see the picture if you don’t know what type of glass that is). Don’t pour out too fast, as this beer is loaded with carbonation and will get ahead of you if you let it. Tilt the glass slowly to straight up as the beer gets past the halfway point ensuring that a big fluffy head of foam sits on top. Always pour out the yeast with a Hefeweizen because it is meant to be served this way. The yeast is what imparts a unique character to this style.

Weissbier 2Once in the glass, Schneider Weisse fills the air with an aroma of bubblegum, banana and the lightest of toasted malt. I can never wait too long to grab a taste of a Hefeweizen, the temptation is too great. A spritzy wheat taste awaits accompanied by a clove spice and freshly ground pepper. Light and packed full of flavor, beers like this are incredibly drinkable and can quench your thirst like none-other. Once the weather starts to warm up, this is the perfect beer.

Hefeweizen is an underrated style and often takes a backseat to the American Wheat Ale in the states. The dirty little secret of the American Wheat Ale is that it is essentially a Hefeweizen but without the unique, flavorful yeast. Where is the fun in that?! If you love beers like Oberon or Gumballhead, give their historical inspiration a try.

In case you were wondering, in German “Hefe” means yeast. “Weiss” – white. “Weizen” – wheat. “Dunkel” – dark.

 

Smoked Beer 2Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen – Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkeria

Style: Smoked Beer (Rauchbier)

ABV: 5.4%

Serving: 16.9 oz bottle

If you were to travel back in time for some reason and happen upon a maltster (the person who is in charge of overseeing the process of converting barley into malted barley), you would see them drying the malt over an open fire. This was an “old” technique of malt drying that has nearly died off today. Reason being, drying the malt this way imparts a distinct smoke flavor to the eventual finish beer (something that is not desirable in all beers). In Germany there is a little slice of heaven town called Bamberg. It is here that this “old” technique of malt drying has lived on and produced some of the most unique beers on the planet.

Smoked Beer 1Pour out Schlenkeria’s smoked märzen and you will be immediately enticed by the dark brown hue with its thick, lightly tan-colored head. Wait for just one extra second to prepare yourself for what is to come. This beer will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.

The aroma takes you to a cowboy campfire breakfast: a slab of bacon cooking in a frying pan over a brightly hot fire; the welcoming smell of maple paired off with breakfast sausage. The taste brings you a bit of chocolate and toasted malt. Quick to return is a pile of burnt out coals left over from a fire burning not too long ago. Sliced ham with a spoonful of maple syrup. The smoke is prevalent and leads most of the way but isn’t overwhelming. The beer finishes clean with a lingering puff of smoke.

I will come right out and say it: This beer is not for everyone. It is very different and might turn off some. For the adventurous type, this is a must-try. The American craft movement is starting to draw inspiration from these beers and is putting its own unique spin on the smoked style. Pick up a wonderful and influential piece of brewing history today because you never know where something can go before you know where it has been.

 

Next week in the Vas Review:  Back to the brewery spotlight!

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on TwitterUntappd or Instagram at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com. Visit his other beer blog at gardemybiere.com.

The Vas Review – Maine Beer Company

 

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

If you read this blog regularly then you already know that on Sunday we did NOT publish any customer reviews. That is because WE DIDN’T HAVE ANY! This is worse than the time that you didn’t buy me any Christmas gifts! I know you are drinking beer, why else would you be reading this blog? Why not write down a couple of your thoughts and send them in? What have you got to lose?!

Instead of The Customer Review, we will do another entry in The Vas Review. Sit back and hold on tight. Be jealous as I take you through two excellent beers from the Maine Beer Company.

 

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Way ahead of you.

Red Wheelbarrow

Style: American Amber Ale

ABV: 7.0%

Serving: 16.9 oz bottle

The memories we have as a child. Most of them are probably quite romanticized, but if there is one thing that reigns true in a young boy’s life, it is the moments you share with your father. I remember my dad needing help to bring chopped wood from the back of the garage to the house on an autumn’s Saturday. I would turn it into a contest with my older sister to see who could carry more. Turns out, she could. I was too busy tricking her into doing my work while I played basketball in the driveway.

Behold my kitchen

Behold my kitchen

Red Wheelbarrow explodes out of the bottle into my glass. It is bottle conditioned (carbonated with yeast), so I should have paid attention. A dark copper ale with a monstrous head of foam awaits. Immediately my nose takes to the strong citrus flavor and the tickle of a morning biscuit. Keep tickling me biscuit, I swear I’ll drink you down.

In goes the beer and out comes the flavor. The hop presence from the nose has subsided a little bit. A perfume-like presence paired off with a slight metallic note and a slice of bread with jam. Space Jam. Red Wheelbarrow has a firm bitterness that is balanced quite well against the strong malty flavors. It ends with a fairly dry backend lingering with pine and fig notes.

10 seconds left on the clock, down by two. He makes a move left and then spins right. Foot behind the three-point line he squares up and shoots the ball just as the clock hits zero. The ball moves in slow motion towards the basket while the crowd rises to their feet….Wait, what? Sorry. I was too busy winning the college basketball championship in my driveway. So how was that beer Sis?

 

Do what's right Spike...leave the beer alone.

Do what’s right Spike…leave the beer alone.

King Titus

Style: Porter

ABV: 7.5%

Serving: 16.9 oz bottle

Can you keep a secret? Porter is one of my favorite styles of beer. I absolutely love the make up of a porter and sometimes nothing else can hit the spot the way a porter can. The first true industrial beer style, the porter was insanely popular in the 18th and early 19th century in England drawing its name from the working class “porters” of the time. It nearly fell extinct at one point but thanks to the American Craft Revolution, this style is back where it belongs….in my belly.

King Titus pours out the darkest of browns with a cinnamon colored head. The aroma greats you with a thick, river of chocolate as Willy Wonka sings in the background. Red velvet cake and a chocolate covered caramel candy.

The crazy part is, my kitchen does normally look like this.

The crazy part is, my kitchen does normally look like this.

Out shoots a moderate bitterness carried on the back of semi-sweet chocolate. It isn’t long before the bitterness subsides leaving behind a creamy, marshmallow like texture and taste. As soon as he is of legal drinking age, Augustus Gloop would be all over this beer. A very mild roast coffee blend fades into a finish of gentle bitterness and toasted notes.

If this beer was present in Wonka’s factory, I would have been out of the contest before I even signed my name. Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…

 

 

Other offerings from Maine Beer Company available at Vas Foremost include:  Another One, Lunch IPA,  Mo Pale Ale, and Zoe Hoppy Ale.

 

Next week in the Vas Review:  Snowboarding! That is where I will be for the next week. If we get some customer reviews in, we will publish those instead. If not, see you in a couple of weeks!

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on TwitterUntappd or Instagram at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com. Visit his other beer blog at gardemybiere.com.

The Vas Review – Gigantic Brewing Co.

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

In this week’s Vas Review, I drink a pair of offerings from a small brewery in Portland. This brewery does something I’ve never seen before. Gigantic Brewing Co. only has ONE regular beer offering. ONE. (Gigantic IPA is their one, year round beer). Every other beer they make and release is a one-time only offering. In other words, get it while you can. You may never see these again! I will cherish the memories forever of these two beers. O! Look! More beer in my fridge to drink! Bring it!

 

Hellion20140127_193203_Richtone(HDR)_resized

Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

ABV: 8.5%

Serving: 22 oz bottle (Bomber)

“The tall tree catches much wind,” the beer proclaims. And so does my girlfriend after I eat a burrito. Gigantic goes to the far east for inspiration on the outside and to Europe for inspiration inside the bottle. Hellion is #13 in their limited artist and artisan beers.

Pouring out a misty tangerine color, Hellion looks like it has something to hide. On a path of discovery, my nose leads me to a bold orange citrus aroma with a champagne-like feeling. Tangerine, melon, and dry grass are along for the ride.

collage_20140128202048815_20140203182820959I dare to take just one sip. The beer counters by showing its strength. A slight alcohol warming going toe to toe with a biscuit and fresh cracked grain taste. Moving on step by step I discover buckwheat, black pepper, lemon peel and a worn leather belt. Don’t try this in a blender folks. The finish is inching towards dry. Each sip I take, it gets closer and closer…

And then I remember I am of average height. Certainly not a “tall tree” that also has a rebounding advantage when we are on the court. Good thing this beer doesn’t have a height restriction. Although, I’d probably throw on some heels just to get a crack at it.

 

The Future is Now20140128_195501_Richtone(HDR)_resized

Style: American Amber Ale

ABV: 6.4%

Serving: 22oz bottle (bomber)

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” There is hope for me after all…

Gigantic keeps the big beers rolling with The Future is Now, the #14 beer limited artist and artisan beers. Let the records show, this label is just as gorgeous as the last. And I am really a big fan of the quotes on the side of the bottle. Kudos Gigantic.

I literally interpret the label and make this beer my present. A dark, muddled copper colored ale pours out with thick off-white hieroglyphic lacing. A crunchy wafer and freshly finished toast greet the nose. West-coast inspired hops balance the scales with citrus and pine. A soft spiciness lurks in the background gently tickling your nose. collage_20140128201545402_20140203182759816

The first sip starts off somewhat grassy reminding of a springtime drizzle. A slightly grainy taste punctures through bringing with it soft caramel, toffee, toasted nuts and a cherry throat lozenge. Citrus, evergreen needles and a pinecone linger in the background. Like a perfect line dance, all of these flavors boogie until the finishes brings a moderately dry toasted feeling.

A quick check to the bathroom mirror and its confirmed, I did get a little bit better looking after drinking The Future is Now. It is either the beer googles or this caterpillar is ready to fly!

Cheers Gigantic!

 

Stop in today to find other beers from Gigantic Brewing Co!

 

Next week in the Vas Review: THE CUSTOMER REVIEW!! Don’t forget to send in your submissions. The time is ticking away. Stop reading this now, go drink and write! 

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on TwitterUntappd or Instagram at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com

 

The Customer Review

 

From the popular blog that brought you The Vas Review comes…

The Customer Review.

Starring….YOU!

Vas Foremost’s resident beer expert needs your help. Craft beer is exploding and now more than ever the shelves are full with new and exciting beers. Sounds like a dream come true right? WRONG! It’s a nightmare! Not in an “elm street” sense but more like a “kid in the candy store that is only allowed 3 pieces of candy” sense. I never did find that golden ticket.

It is impossible for me to try everything that is out there. This is where you come in. Every other week, the Vas Foremost Blog will publish a customer’s review of a beer we have in stock (If this takes off we may move this to every week, not every other week). Unedited and uncut, your words will be featured on our blog for all of the internet to see. It won’t be hidden amongst thousands of other reviews, it will be upfront and center at the top of the page.

How does it work Steve?

First, you buy a beer from Vas Foremost. Next, you review it (and take pictures if you want). Then, you send it to Steve at Steve@vasforemost.com. If you are selected, your beer review will go up on the Vas Blog.

We do have a couple of rules that we ask you abide by:

  1. The beer must be available at Vas Foremost
  2. Keep it clean. No swearing.
  3. Reviews must be more than just a sentence or two long. We really need you to dive deep into this beer so we know what it is like.
  4. It cannot be a beer featured in The Vas Review.
  5. No plagiarizing from review sites. We will check and your review will be deleted.
  6. Submissions limited to two per person per review period.

Finally, BE CREATIVE AND ORIGINAL! We don’t want these reviews to be boring and something you can find on any of the beer review websites. We want these reviews to be distinct and unique.

If you are selected, we will notify you be email. If not, we may pull some highlights from your review so customers still know about a noteworthy beer.

Side note: Feel free to throw your twitter, untappd, instagram, etc. on the review. You scratch our back, we scratch yours. And please make sure that you sign your name at the end. You wrote the review, so you deserve the credit!

The first Customer Review will be published on February 9th. If you have any questions, just ask!

What are you waiting for? Get to reviewing!

Cheers!

Steve

The Vas Review – The Classics. Scene One.

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

You study the label with intrigue, not knowing exactly what will come next. Your favorite glass is washed, clean, ready to go. Twist once, twice, as many times as you need to lift off the wired cage. It lifts off easily. A firm grip on the cork peaks your curiosity as you say to yourself, “What kind of beer uses a cork instead of a cap?” Your heart is pumping faster. One more look at the label. Simple, descriptive, a smile starts to emerge on your face. Carefully you pour, the effervescent nature of the beer causes an explosion. The aroma fills the room. You close your eyes and time slows down as you take the first sip. In that moment, nothing will ever be the same.

Once a month in the Vas Review I am going to highlight beers that have changed the way we drink. Beers that have altered history and changed the paths and lives of many. At some point in my life, every single one of these beers has shaped my passion and pushed it deeper into an obsession. I am excited to be able to share with you The Classics.

 

Orval Trappst AleOrval Trappist Ale

Style: ???

ABV: 6.9%

Orval is a Trappist brewery. “Trappist” is a protected term that is designated only to products produced within the walls of a Cistercian monastery by or under the supervision of monks (profits that aren’t used to cover living expenses must also be donated or used for social work). Orval has been producing beer since 1931. It produces two beers, but only releases one to the public, Orval Trappist Ale. One of the most unique beers in the world, Orval (beer) is hard to group into a particular style (although some often try to). One thing everyone will agree upon is that it is an experience like no other.

Be careful when pouring out this beer. These is a bit of yeast in the bottle and most prefer to enjoy this beer without it (The yeast contained in this bottle is one of the main reasons why this beer is so unique). The beer itself pours out a beautiful dark orange copper color with a thick, cemented cream-colored head.

Orval Trappist Ale Take TwoThe aroma begins with some citrus fruitiness backed up by a peppery tickle. Incredibly floral with a perfume-like aroma that sits atop a field of lemon-grass and hay. A pinch of clove dropped into crushed lavender and coriander spice. The taste continues on the journey that the nose started and it isn’t afraid to turn at every corner. This leads to a beer packed with depth and complexity. Tobacco. Leather. Mushrooms. Lemon pepper. Biscuit. Flower petals. And that is only the beginning…

Orval Trappist Ale is a “choose your own adventure” book. Each time you take to opening the bottle, it is going to be a different experience than the last. Sadly, this product may not stand the test of time as the monastery is seeing its membership decrease significantly in recent years. This author can only hope that somehow, someway this beer will live on staying true.

 

Westmalle TripelWestmalle Triple

Style: Tripel

ABV: 9.5%

One of the oldest and most influential Trappist breweries in the world, Westmalle Monastery began brewing beer in 1836. It only releases two beers to the public and both are worth the price of admission (Westmalle Dubbel is their other release). Of the two, few beers can claim more influence on the brewing world than Westmalle’s Tripel. It wasn’t the first attempt at a strong golden ale, but it is often considered the hallmark of its style. First released in 1934 with a slight recipe change in the 1950’s, Westmalle’s Tripel is the first beer to use the term “tripel.” Since then it has been imitated worldwide and rarely, if ever, outdone.

Westmalle Tripel is a beautifully slightly hazy golden color with a thick, pillowy white head. Be careful with the pour on this one as there is some yeast in the bottle. The aroma is enticing, fruity and spicy. Black peppercorn, wintergreen life savors and the springtime country side. It’s tough to wait any longer so I bring the glass up for a drink.

Westmalle Tripel Take TwoAround and over my taste buds dances a fresh squeezed orange flavor with a peppery clove and dried field grass. It has a slightly warming alcohol strength which shows its strength. A higher carbonation will lift the beer right off of your tongue. Rustic with hints of a rural farm. Minty with a touch of the ground (beer geeks would call this “earthy” or “dirt” and yes, it is sought after in a beer like this). The beer finishes devilishly fruity with a lingering spice on the tongue.

WestmalleTripel is one of those beers that always seems to bring a smile to my face. In my quest to try new beers, I often regret that this masterpiece takes a backseat to the newer craft beers with experimental ingredients. This year I hope to revisit those beers that hold a special place in my memories. I’m glad I have this blog to share those special beers with fellow enthusiasts. Cheers!

 

 

Next week in the Vas Review: Back to the Brewery spotlight!

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com

The Vas Review – Church Street Brewing Company

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

It sure has been a while since our last review hasn’t it?  Sub-zero temperatures brought with them a wicked cold that sidelined this blogger for the week. With the ability to breath through my nose once again, I bring you this week’s Vas Review. Highlighted this week is the Church Street Brewing Company. Coming to you from the Chicago suburb of Itasca, the founder of this breweries true love is German lagers (and it shows in their profile). I’ve been to this brewery once before, met the owner, had a tour and enjoyed every minute of it. I’m excited this week to share with you two beers that I hope will encourage you to try new and different things!

 

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No funny business this week, just pure temptation.

Tale of the Shony

Style: Scottish Ale

ABV: 5.1%

The first beer out of the gate is a Scottish ale named “Tale of the Shony.” I must confess that I’ve never heard of such a tale. Google, any help here? Nope? Moving on.

Shony pours out a deep ruby color with brown tones. Gripping onto the walls of your glass a thick, cream-colored head lifts the aroma right to your nose. A candy-like sweetness balanced off by a crispy biscuit and a loaf of sliced bread. “Steve, how on earth can you tell that the bread is sliced?” No more questions!

The taste maintains the sweetness that tickles the nose. Faint red licorice and a pinch of caramel. Hop flavor is low yet perfumy, while a light bitterness is there to try and balance this malt-favored beer. The carbonation is surprisingly higher than expected, giving this beer a lift. Subtle hints of peat smoke and a heavy, dry red wine.

A good Scottish ale is somewhat hard to find in the states. It isn’t a popular style among today’s craft brewers and by the time a European example of the beer is shipped over, it is sometimes already showing age. Church Street dares to take on the style that 3Floyds dominates with Robert the Bruce. It takes on a more traditional approach, but has my taste buds celebrating. Mmmmmm….Scottish ales….

 

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If this is heaven, sign me up.

Style: Munich Helles

ABV: 5.4%

The second beer I sampled today is Church Street’s attempt at a classic German style, the Munich Helles. Appropriately named? Let’s find out!

Heavenly is a nearly brilliantly clear golden color. A small amount of yeast sediment hangs around in the glass but that doesn’t bother. A sweet grainy aroma takes hold of the nose, along with a light corn-like aroma and a pinch of maltiness. Right on par with what I hope for in a munich helles.

The first sip begins with a kick of sweetness, slightly corn-like but never straying far from a clean grainy flavor. The hops are very subdued and have a taste that can only be described as earthy. The flavors are simple and very straight forward. The beer itself has moderate body with a kick of dryness. Heavenly finishes clean, meaning there isn’t a whole lot left lingering on your tongue. For the style, this is a good thing.

If you are a macro beer drinker (PBR, Coors, Bud, Miller, etc.) and want to take your first step into craft beer, this is a perfect first step for you. Even if you are a seasoned beer veteran, this beer is a great reminder that a beer doesn’t have to be barrel-aged, highly-hopped or include crazy ingredients to be considered a good beer. Sometimes something simple can really hit the spot (and broaden those horizons)!

 

Other offerings from Church Street available at Vas Foremost include:  Continental Lager and Brimstone IPA .

 

Next week in the Vas Review: A pair of classics that everybody NEEDS to try!

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasformost.com

Blind as a Beer

In my continuing quest to become the greatest beer drinker in the world, I started to blind taste test beer. I wanted to put my skills to the test to see if I could determine what style of beer I was drinking. The only way I could do that was to take the label completely out of the picture.

The process is simple. For at-home drinking, I have my girlfriend pick up beer from the liquor store and store it in the fridge in a closed black bag. When it is time to drink, she pours it for me while I am in the other room. Until that beer is finished, I will not know what it is. At a bar, it is even simpler. Without looking at the menu, I ask the server to pour me a random beer and not tell me what it is ‘til I am finished.

Surprise!

It first started off as a challenge but has since become a mechanism to find what I truly like and consider to be a good beer.

Everyone has their own brand. Their own brewery. Their own beer or style that they consider their favorite. How much of that is influenced by the label? By the brewery? Or by what we think a beer should taste like because it is an IPA or a Stout?

Have you ever thought a beer was better than it actually was because it was by “so and so?”

Or when you order a certain style of beer do you often assume what it is going to taste like because that’s what that style of beer should taste like?

I’ve fallen victim to it countless times myself. Often, I am surprised to realize that my thoughts and opinions have changed about a beer I’ve had before when I’ve had it again blind. Breckenridge’s Avalanche Amber comes to mind. Months ago it ended up being a chosen beer for a blind taste testing. I’ve had it several times before but never really thought much of it or American Amber Ales in general. It isn’t one of the “sexier” styles of beer.

I was blown away by how much I loved the beer when I had no idea what it was. In fact, I blind taste tested six different beers that night and declared Avalanche Amber my favorite (another beer I considered to be a favorite was also in that blind taste testing).

Imagine that!

Take the label out of the picture, take the declared style away, remove the name of the brewery and an honest opinion comes out. There is nothing there to sway you any which way other than your enjoyment of the beverage in the glass.

Going to the lengths that I do may be a bit of a stretch. Although, at a bar you may still be able to follow my example. You just have to be willing to PAY for that random beer, even if you don’t like it. The beauty of craft beer though, is it is an affordable luxury. You’ll rarely break the bank by trying something new (just let the server know that you don’t want to open that rare $50 bottle in the cooler).

If you are finding yourself adventurous one day, try it out! At the liquor store, grab a random bottle/six-pack of beer without studying the label or the brewery that makes it. Without doing any research into that beer, pour it in a glass and try it.

That little, adventurous leap could yield some amazing results.

 

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com

The Vas Review – Holiday and Winter Seasonals Volume 3

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

All of the major gift-giving holidays are over and I didn’t receive a gift from you…again. I’ve been dropping hints for the past couple of weeks!  Instead of feeling too sorry for myself, I went down to Vas Foremost and found some holiday surprises still on the shelf. In this week’s Vas Review, we take a look at two classic holiday and winter beers. Get them quick before I drink all of them.

A simple, but gorgeous label.

A simple, but gorgeous label.

Brooklyn Winter Ale

Style: Scottish-style Ale

ABV: 6.1%

The story of Brooklyn Brewery is a fascinating one. At one time a hub for breweries, the city of Brooklyn fell victim to prohibition and the great consolidation of breweries in the mid-1900’s leaving not one brewery behind. In the mid-1980’s, a journalist and avid homebrewer named Steve Hindy developed a friendship with his neighbor, Tom Potter. That friendship included a lot of beer drinking (Steve’s homebrews) and a lot of dreaming out loud. In 1988, Steve and Tom realized their dream with Brooklyn Brewery.

Brooklyn Brewery pours out a deep red color showing my reflection in the glass. Its aroma is rich and wonderful, yet it doesn’t want to loan me a couple of bucks. Fruity, bready, and sweet with a touch of caramel and smoke. Who needs hops?

You’ll be greeted by a dominating malty taste as you venture along. Sweet cherry pie filling with a dry biscuit and cracker arrangement. Very subtle complementing smoke flavor and just a spoonful of caramel for depth. At one point, the beer has a distinct dry, grainy taste that leads to a finish of bread crumbs and fruitiness.

Brooklyn Winter Ale is a little bit lighter than most winter beers but should not be overlooked. Mostly because you can see my reflection in it, and I look pretty good tonight in my Winter sweater. Yep, pretty good.

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Railroad christmas tree

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Style: Winter Warmer

ABV: 7.5%

Cleveland shares a very similar story to Brooklyn. In the late 1870’s, Cleveland was a hotbed for breweries. Prohibition and consolidation took its toll on this city and by the 1980’s, not one brewery was left. To Patrick and Daniel Conway, this was unacceptable. In 1988 they opened what would become Cleveland’s first brewpub and microbrewery, the Great Lakes Brewing company. Today the Great Lakes Brewing Company has grown to become one of the largest craft breweries in the United States.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale is a classic. It is a beautifully copper-colored beer that is perfectly clear. As I look at the beer I can not only see my kitchen right side up, but up-side down. This beer must be a WITCH!

The aroma is full of sweetness and spices. Ginger, honey, and a sweet red licorice. As you really dig in, the cinnamon starts to say hello. The first sip is dangerously addicting as I immediately want another. Bread crumbs sprinkled on a fruitcake with a gingersnap dusted with cinnamon. Warm and with a slightly fuller body, I know why this beer was meant to be drank on Christmas.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale won’t be around much longer. Because I am going to drink it. All of it. And leaving nothing for you.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animal….and a Happy New Year. (Obligatory Home Alone 2 reference).

 

Next time in the Vas Review: Back to the brewery spotlight!

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com