Thursday, December 8, 2011

Boys Buy Beer! Lesson: 1

Phil knows beer. His wife and I have been friends for years and Brett and I have really enjoyed becoming closer friends of theirs over the past few months. While we were out on a double lunch date Sunday, I asked Phil if he would share is knowledge of brews and suggest a few favorites with my readers who were looking for an alternative Christmas gift for their beaus. He took the task with pleasure (with a grinning Brett being a willing taste tester) and has offered not one but 3 posts of information to share! So if your guy likes light, medium, or dark beers... you (and him) are in for a treat; served with a world of knowledge! This is the first of a 3 week series. Up first this week: light brews.

Change can be hard, but let’s face it; the same old bland flavored beer just isn’t cutting it anymore.

This Holiday Season, why not treat your guy to some new (or tried and true) beers! Some may be familiar, some may sound weird; but all of them are delicious in their own unique way. I hope that within this list, you’re able to try at least a couple (why not all?) of these quality beers this holiday season, and on throughout the year. Most of the beers included are available year-round, though availability may depend your location. I live on the East Coast United States, and most of these are available all over the U.S.- if not, just bug your local beer store until they get it in for you!

First off, let’s quickly run through some beer definitions to make it easier to work through this small, essential guide for that perfect, fridge-stuffer this season:

ABVThis means how much alcohol is in the brew. Your average beer is around 5%; and your average wine is around 12%.
Hops – This is a plant that’s used to provide a bitter flavor to beers. Historically, hops were used to help preserve beer during long transports by ship from England to Indian colonies. The taste of hops in beer grew in time, and is now considered an essential element in brewing. India Pale Ale’s or IPA’s are the representative of this trend.
BUIThis determines how many “Bittering Units are in a beer. Often this is used when describing a “hoppy” beer (a plant used to make beer have a more bitter taste). Typically, you’ll only really want to know this number when buying a beer that’s specially made to have a “hoppier” or more bitter  flavor, like an IPA (India Pale Ale)
Mouth-FeelThis describes how the beer sits on the pallet. For example; milk has a much different “mouth-feel” from a soda. Soda has a much more crisp and clean mouth feel, where-as milk could be described has having a more malty mouth-feel.
MaltyThis is a term to describe a beer with a full body. Think of it like drinking a “malt milk-shake” to understand the term. A more malty beer will have a thicker “mouth-feel”, and typically tends to be a little sweeter.

*Some beers are meant to be enjoyed at warmer temperatures- Icing these kinds of beers down to frigid temperatures often hides a lot of subtle notes and hints that the brewer meant for you to experience and enjoy! Always follow the recommended serving instructions on the bottle. If there are none, then it’s safe to assume normal fridge temperature is the best way to enjoy.

Now on to some great brews!

Allagash Belgian Style Wheat

This is a delicious un-filtered wheat beer. It’s cloudy in color, yet clear and crisp in taste. Notes of Nutmeg, citrusy combinations of lemon, orange, and tangerine give it a wonderful earthy flavor and mouth-feel. This delightful Belgian has a really nice, light texture with no overbearing flavors.

Truly a beer for all occasions, it’s light enough to enjoy on a hot day in mid-summer, yet provides enough depth and character to be a wonderful brew for those chilly, autumn nights by the fire .

I was greatly impressed with the character and flavor of this beer. Not overly heavy, syrupy or bitter; it’s a wonderful balance of spice and citrus, and a perfect year-round beer.

Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
ABV: 5.0%
Price Range: $10 / 4pk
Pairings: Salads, Goat Cheese, Grilled Chicken

Yuengling Lager

No doubt you’ve seen Yuengling in stores recently. This historic company is the second largest
micro-brewery in the U.S., and distribution continues to grow at a very steady pace. I first encountered Yuengling Lager while living in Pennsylvania and was pleasantly surprised to find a delicious crisp and clean Amber Lager.

The brewery is touted as America’s Oldest, dating back to 1829, and its tradition of producing fine-quality beer is clearly shown with their flagship brew.

Yuengling’s Amber Lager has a darker color than a standard American Style Lager but still maintains a very light, easily drinkable body and texture. This is a great beer for either warm or cool weather, with an unassuming, yet satisfying quality.

Yuengling boasts nothing special and nothing fancy. It’s just a great anytime beer for a really good price! I definitely recommend this for anyone looking to break out of the mold of the same old American Lager- the quality is that of some more expensive craft American Lagers, but with a price that rivals even the cheapest mass-produced beer on the market!

Brewery: Yuengling Brewing Company, Pottsville, Pennsylvania
ABV: 4.4%
Expect to pay: $6.00-$8.00 / 6pk
Pairings: Chicken Fajitas, Fried or Grilled Catfish, Pizza, Burgers, (goes well with just about anything!) 

Magic Hat #9

This is a Pale Ale Style beer with extra spice (can you tell I like the spicy beers?). There are hints of Clove, Nutmeg, Allspice, combined with a nice balance of citrusy Apricot. Magic Hat’s #9 is wonderful on tap or bottled, and a must-try for new flavor seekers!

Magic Hat is a great brewery- They definitely are willing to experiment, and my Hat is off to them for that reason alone. There are a lot of other flavors (seasonal and year-round) that Magic Hat puts out, but #9 has become one of my absolute favorite, staple Magic Hat Brews.

There’s enough hoppiness to keep the beverage lively, and yet it’s balanced out with a nice light-medium body of spices.

This one is great for those just who want to test the waters beyond the typical American Lager or Pale Ale. While, not overly aggressive, #9 still holds enough intrigue for even the snobbiest of your self-proclaimed beer  connoisseur friends.

Brewery: Magic Hat, Burlington, Vermont
ABV: 5.10%
Expect to pay: $7.00-$9.00 / 6pk
Pairings: Zesty Chicken, Pizza Margarita, Smoked Salmon

Weyerbacher (why-er-bock-er) Merry Monks’ Belgian Style Golden Ale

Merry Monks is a Belgian Style Abby Tripel (think of a really stout Pale Ale). It has a really nice creamy texture and mouth-feel with very subtle hints of banana.

The traditional Belgian yeast is very apparent and gives the beer a very complex flavor, and very sweet as well. This has no real bitterness, and is a real pleasure to drink!

Merry Monks’ is a great cool weather Ale; it’s a very warming drink. You’ll notice an almost wine-like quality to it with a moderately dry finish. Overall, this is one of the sweeter, more robust, complex and thoughtful beers that I’ve been able to try, and I think you’ll really find a wonderfully similar experience.

*Extra tip- This beer is conditioned in the bottle (a bit of yeast and sugar is added at the time of bottling to give it that extra creamy carbonation) Try storing a couple of bottles out of sunlight for a few months (at around 55-60 degrees)– This conditioning process helps keeps it fresh and will continue to mature the Ale, allowing for a drier and crisper characteristic.

Brewery: WeyerBacher, Easton, PA
ABV: 9.3%
Expect to pay: $10.00-$12.00 / 6pk
Pairings: Fresh Baked Bread, Rueben Sandwich, Pipe Tobacco and a good book

New Belgium Ranger IPA

I’ll go ahead and warn you, you’ll be seeing a couple of New Belgium’s brews on this blog posting, and there’s a good reason!

Leading off the New Belgium Brews, and finishing off this first set of “lighter” brews, is the Ranger IPA, an American Style India Pale Ale.

Ranger is an experience in delicious Floral, Citrus, and Fruity Hops. This beer is at a reasonable 70 IBU, so right at a good place for a medium IPA.

The beer starts hoppy, has a decent balance of medium/caramel malts, and then has a nice, dry finish with the zest and pop of Citrus Hops again.

The color is a beautiful amber-tone, the body is just malty enough to handle the trifecta of hops. For IPA and Hop lovers, this is a beer that’s easy to have just one more!

Like many of New Belgium’s brews, there’s nothing super [insert adjective here] about this splendid IPA, it’s just really good.

Brewery: New Belgium, Fort Collins, Colorado
ABV: 6.5%
Expect to pay: $8.00-$10.00 / 6pk
Pairings: Burgers, Ribs, Creamy Potato Soup, Grilled Trout

Brought to you by my dear friend & ghost-writer:
-Phil Harmonic Smorgasbord

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