25 May 2009

Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen

Queen Victoria's birthday on the 24th of May unofficially marks the start of the summer season here in Canada. The end of the harsh Canadian winter ushers in a new season of barbeques, skimpy clothing and drunken afternoons spent on the patio. In the warm sun, nothing goes down like a cold bottle of German hefeweizen and I was pleased to see that the LCBO has been making an effort to bring in more of examples of this excellent style of brewing. Being a huge fan of Erdinger Weissbier, I stopped into my local LCBO to pick up a few bottles for the evening barbeque when I spotted a new weissbier on the shelf. I grabbed a few for my Mix 8 and headed home with my purchase.

Hailing from the world's oldest brewery, Weihenstephaner is a Bavarian-style wheat beer with an abv of 5.4%. The Weihenstephaner website states that the brewery started between 725 and 768 in the Bavarian city of Freising by Benedictine monks. Later, it became the Royal Bavarian State Brewery until finally being privatized as a regulated enterprise of the Freestate of Bavaria. Today, Weihenstephaner brews 11 standard beers and 2 alcohol free varieties. Their hefe weissbeir is their only product I have personally seen in North America.

Like most examples of weissbier, Weihenstephaner pours a cloudy golden-orange with a thick foamy head. The beer gives off a distinct yet pleasant spicy odour with no alcohol scent. The brew starts with a slightly sweet, yeasty flavour reminscent of most wheat beers, moves to the back of the palate with the slight spiciness hinted at in the nose, and continues with a slightly bitter finish. The taste lingers but does not overpower, and the crisp finish makes one wanting more. A definate thirst quencher for those dog days of summer, I can easily see many a drunken afternoon in the coming months with a fridge full of these. Overall, and excellent example of this style of brewing. Enjoy!

24 May 2009

Foster's Premium Ale

This was another find of Brian's in Novi. Having been discussing Foster's on the drive down to Michigan, I think he had it on the brain when he got to the liquor store. I was somewhat curious about this one, as I have drank the regular blue-can Foster's in the past and wanted to see what the premium version was like. I suppose it should be stated that many people equate Foster's with "kangaroo piss" so I my expectations weren't that high.

The can was massive and lists the abv at 5.4%. The beer poured out a rich amber-brown with a thick white head. There was no discernable smell from it, save what you would expect from a dark ale. We both knocked back our glasses and found the taste to be smooth up front, but brutally bitter in the finish - not good at all. Looking on the 'net for more info on this one, I found out that this "premium ale" is actually just a repackaged version of Foster's Special Bitter! Little wonder there was such a hideous bitterness in the finish. I wouldn't recommend this one unless you are a fan of bitters and want to see what the Aussies can come up with. You can read about the renaming of this brew by clicking here.

22 May 2009

Werewolf Beer

"You must be sure you want to taste it!" was the tagline on this Lithuanian oddity that Brian picked out at the Novi liquor store, Werewolf seemed to be an appropriate name with an abv of 8.2%, and the brew also contained sea monkeys which were apparent when held up to the light. Unlike the horrific Taj Mahal, this one actually had some info on the back:

Brewery Rinkuskiai was established in the year 1991 in the Birzai Region known as Beer Country in Lithuania. Rinkuskiai beer quality is the result of old traditions in Beer Country, experience of the past generations and innovations of the modern days. That makes Rinkuskiai beer one of the most exclusive in Lithuania. WEREWOLF has an attractive dark color, slightly sweet, reach taste of malt and slight aroma of hops. Want to drink more? Oh, yes! And be aware that WEREWOLF is based on the old recipe of one of the best birzai beers.

Slightly sweet REACH taste? The pigeon English on this lable was a bit over the top. Perhaps they were trying to overplay the wolfman schtick by trying to sound like one of the Gypsies in Universal Studios classic 1941 film. Regardless, we poured out a couple glasses and drank. Aside from a slight alcohol scent, Werewolf didn't smell that bad. However, the flavour was very overhopped and not that great. I am fairly certain that this one would have had a much worse rating, but after the Taj Mahal experience earlier in the evening, Cisco would likely have tasted good. Regardless, given the excessive alcohhol content I am sure a night after drinking a dozen or so of these may actually result in waking up in an unknown place, missing some or all of your clothing, possibly covered in blood and unable to remember the events the night before - much like the victims of lycanthropy in Hollywood films!

19 May 2009

Taj Mahal Lager

"Slow Brewed for the Connoisseur" states the label on this abysmal example of the brewer's art. I can honestly state that it is a rare occasion indeed when a single beverage can turn me off drinking for two days afterward, but Taj Mahal did exactly that. Brian and I had arrived in Novi and went straight to a liquor store to see what the "Great Lakes State" had to offer, and after looking over the multitude of brews available, I chose this monstrosity. We collected up the rest of our purchases and headed back to the hotel for a sampling.

Brian had serious reservations about Taj Mahal the moment he found out it was brewed in India. However, I have drank both Cobra and Kingfisher and while they may not be the finest examples of award-winning lager, they were both drinkable. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case with this bottled demon. I popped the cap and poured out two glasses. After handing one to Brian, I heard him exclaim, "it stinks!". I took a whiff of the liquid in my glass and was immediately treated to a full-on nasal assault. "Jesus, this IS bad!" I replied as I started to realize that this was starting to resemble one of those situations not unlike putting your truck on the roulette table in Vegas. I personally have no idea where the water is obtained to brew this stuff, but the smell immediately conjured up images of waterlogged corpses floating down the Ganges River. Hesitantly, I raised the glass to my lips and took a large mouthful. I can only describe the acrid taste as what I imagine a beer tastes like after someone pissed in it after a night of eating asparagus and drinking homemade corn whiskey. Brian tried his and observed "some things dance across the tongue... This is like a dog dragging its ass across it!". Undaunted, I raised my glass again to see if it got better after the initial taste - it didn't. I took the third pull a voice in my head suddenly screamed "WHY AM I STILL DRINKING THIS?!?" as I got up to dump the remainder of this vile brew down the drain.

I can't complete this review without a report on what this beer did to my digestive system. I know it was the Taj Mahal because Brain and I drank equal amounts of everything else that night with this one exception. I spare you the disgusting details, but the symptoms I experienced included hideous gas, stomach pain and a lower intestinal tract that was somehow set to "nuclear holocaust". These symptoms required copious amounts of Pepto to alleviate, and I was unable to do any further samplings the following night. Take my advice and try this one at your own risk. Seriously, it IS that bad!

04 May 2009

St. Peter's English Ale

This one is another product from the LCBO that basically screamed "drink me!" as I walked by. Although the label says English ale, I gave into temptation to find out what was contained in the green glass of the medicine-like bottle on the shelf. St. Peter's Organic English Ale is brewed in a medieval hall in a remote, rural corner of Suffolk, England. Made with organically grown barley and hops, it is described as a "refreshingly wholesome flavoured ale with a delicate character" and an abv of 4.5%. The flask-shaped bottle is a "faithful copy" of one made in 1770 for a Thomas Gerrard of Gibbstown, which is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

I popped it open and poured the golden ale into a pint glass. The medium head was typical for this style of ale, and the beer has no discernible scent. I raised the glass and let the cold brew slide over my tongue. While the main flavour profile was normal for English ale (in other words, bland and unremarkable), the taste was heavily punctuated by the musty overhopping common in many modern microbrews. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of overhopped ale, and this one pulled no punches. Normally, I would have sinked it right then and there, but the $3.55 price tag along with a craving for a San Cristobel de Havana changed my mind. Combined with the medium flavour of a good Cuban cigar, the ale was quite enjoyable and made for an excellent kick off to my weekend.

02 May 2009

Ochakovo Premium Lager

Being laid up on Percocet after oral surgery has somewhat affected my ability to update this blog, mostly because opiate-based painkillers lay me out cold and booze just makes it worse. However, I did dig up an unpublished review from last St. Patrick's Day when Mad Dog Johnny came by for a piss-up and a traditional Irish corned beef dinner. I had picked up this oddity at the Mississauga LCBO by my sister's house, and we sampled it while the corned beef was boiling. While I am unable to deciper the Soviet cyrillic alphabet, I did determine that this lager is brewed in Moscow, Russia by Ochakovo Breweries and has an abv of 4.5%.

The first thing I noticed was the ingenious pop-off cap the Russians included as part of the packaging, which eliminates the need for a church key or Bic lighter to open your ale. The cap comes off quite easily, and the beer did not show any kind of flatness or deterioration of quality. As I poured out two glasses, a lacy head formed over the golden lager. I handed one to Johnny and with a hearty sláinte, we raised our glasses. Before the ale even went down Johnny's throat, he commented that the smell of this hooch was "more invasive to the nasal passages than lo-grade cocaine." I tipped my glass back, and found the taste was very similar to generic American lager. While it wasn't the best lager reviewed on this site, the pull-ring opener was novelty enough to justify the purchase. Fans of other Russian lager like Baltika 3 may want to try it for comparison.