Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Session: Eastern Beer

For this month's Session I opted to go about as east as I could, until I almost ran out of land: Thai beer in the form of the country's best-known brand (at least abroad), Singha Premium Lager Beer.

Singha is brewed by the Singha Corp., of Bangkok, and labels itself the "original Thai beer, since 1933."

Singha is a pleasant easy-drinking beer that will promptly get one in that "session mood," but could be easy to overdo, even though at 5% ABV it is not overly alcoholic.

The color is a pretty gold and the head, while fluffy and white at pouring, soon disappears; which does not mean that the beer loses its effervesence. I poured it before I sat down to type and it is still fizzy, with bubbles steadily rising through the column of liquid - and I'm a hunt-and-peck typist! I guess it could be classed as an example of the countless "international"-style lagers out there, but if so, it is a solid one at that.

I have enjoyed Singha, and I must say that it is nice to taste it -really taste it- without having it be merely a cooling agent for a curry-ignited palate.

I would like to be able to say that Singha has captured the essence or terroir of Thailand, that in tasting it I can smell the foliage and exult in the tropical sun, that it takes me to the Far East, but I can't. It is not different-tasting enough for that, the presentation (a standard 22 oz brown longneck bottle with a two-tone label) is unispired, and never having myself been to Asia, let alone Thailand, I have no nostalgic associations to be awoken.

Interestingly, if anywhere, it takes me back to South America with its own set of golden lagers and I would not hesitate to pair it with any Latin American cuisine.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: Green Lakes Organic Ale

(Originally published in the Club DOZE newletter, The Monthly Mash, October 2008.)

This month's beer review is of Green Lakes Organic Ale by the Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon.

Green Lakes Organic Ales is a (5% ABV) dark amber beer with an orange tint and an attractive appearance. Upon pouring it presents a low head, with mixed bubble sizes. However, head retention is somewhat low, as 3-4 minutes into the glass (1/3 of the way down) the head was gone.

It does not have a prominent hop aroma, but it does offer a nice, unagressive bitterness and hop flavor. It's not malty in flavor at the outset, but a bit of roasted malt character seems to peek out from behind the hops. The overwhelming impression is one of smoothness. Malt flavor and aromas do emerge later into the glass, once the head has subsided and the beer has started to warm.

The blurb from the brewery on the label of this beer indicates that this beer is made with five types of one-hundred percent organic malt “balanced with Crystal and Salmon-Safe Sterling hops” making it as “easy to drink” as it is “easy on Mother Earth.” While a USDA certification of “Organic” is not one of the first things I look for in a beer, it certainly doesn’t seem to hurt any. Green Lakes Organic Ale is easy to drink. It is a good, solid, tasty amber ale, though in my opinion, other than that USDA certification and the particulars of its ingredients, it doesn’t particularly stand apart nor above other amber or pale ales on the market; but, in the same vein, you’d not go wrong by choosing it for your home bar.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cerveceria De Tomas - Lima, Peru

In the first week of August, on one of my last days in Lima, Nico, Diego and I went to visit a locale that I had been curious to visit: Restaurant Cerveceria De Tomas.

Located on Lima's Avenida Rosa Toro, home of many cevicherias, it's fare -not unexpectedely- tended toward seafood. However, the reason for the visit was that De Tomas is Lima's only brewpub.

On the day we went, the place could not have been deader. For most our meal we were the only diners, and only at the end did another table fill up. This may have been in part due to the day of the week -a Tuesday- and the time of the year -mid-Winter- as ceviche is generally regarded as a revitalizer after a hard night and as Summertime fare.

The fare, it must be said, was quite good. Not great, mind you, but solidly done and in that realm De Tomás has no need to envy any of its neighbors I'm sure.

I, of course, was there for the beer.

All of De Tomas offerings seem to be ales. Upon that base, they build their selection of beers by tweaking the malts, and most often, it seems, by use of additives. The server did share that they use a mixture of whole-grain malts and malt extracts depending on the recipe and on availability of particular ingredients. He would not say what hops were used, saying that that was known "only by the technician in charge of making the beer."

From what I can recall, their basic beer was a "Pilsner", although it lacked the body and hop character of any Pilsner I have tasted and did not even compare favourably with Peru's standard Pilsner- and Bavarian-style commercial lagers. If anything, it tasted like a light beer.

From L to R: Pilsner, Algarrobina Beer, Red Beer

The next one on the list, and the second we tried, was one made with the addition of algarrobina, a syrup made from the seed pods of the algarrobo or huarango tree (Prosopis pallida), which is sometimes referred to in English as "American carob" and in Hawaii, where it has been introduced from South America, as "Kiawe." Algarrobina syrup is widely used in Peruvian cooking and is a common flavoring in desserts and cocktails. The beer made with it was actually quite tasty and balanced. The algarrobina added a nice undertone to the beer but did not dominate, and seems to have lent some body to the beer as well.

The third beer tasted was their Red beer. This one was brewed with darker malts and the addition of honey. It also was an improvement over the Pilsner and the honey's influence was noticeable. It's head was also denser and more longlasting than that of the other two.

Other offerings included a dark beer (also brewed with honey), a lime-flavored beer, and a mint-flavored beer, as well a "Premium" beer which included "special malts, honey, and fruit flavors" but which was sadly unavailable at that time.

Considering that Peru's beer culture is dominated by Bavarian- and Pilsner-style lagers and the complete absence, at least in Lima, a metropolis of nearly 9 million souls, of a single other brewpub, one has to recognize that De Tomás is doing well by holding its own ground in the face of some stiff competition.

I suspect that the lightness of the beers and low hop character are probably, more than anything, a measure of the extent to which the availability and prices of malt and hops in Peru are impacted by the sheer size and reach of Backus & Johnston, which holds near-monopoly on beer and brewing in the country.

Backus' monolithic status has been recently challenged by the Brazilian group InBev, and by the Ayacuchano Añaño family with their Aje Group breweries. Hopefully, others -maybe one of the dozen or so small, independent breweries said to be operant in Lima- will follow upon Mr. De Tomás footsteps and open up more brewpubs. For such a beer-drinking nation, it would seem a natural step, and in any case, Mr De Tomás seems committed to making it happen as he offers yearly courses on brewing at the pub.

I think we can all drink to that!

Restaurante y Casa Cervecera "De Tomas"
Av. Agustín La Rosa Toro Nº1151
San Borja
Lima 41 - Perú

Sunday, June 21, 2009

National Homebrewers Conference

I just got back late last night from the National Homebrewers Conference in Oakland, three days and nights of beer talks, beer seminars, beer tastings, beer samplings, and beer drinking.

Commemorative beers brewed specially for the occasion, and distributed as
gifts to those attending the conference upon registering on-site


Clockwise from upper left: John Palmer (author, Brewing Classic Styles) on proteins and
head retention; Bob Hansed (Briess) on specialty malts and color in beer; Michael Ferguson
(BJ's Restaurants) on brewing German lagers; Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey) on
"ingredients 5 - 10".

The talks and lectures were pretty interesting though not always immediately relevant to me as an extract brewer. Nonetheless I did learn and found them all informative and, by and large, entertaining.

One of the best was the talk given by Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey. Not only was he a fun speaker, but he was very gracious and earnest in anwering all manner of questions from the floor. To make matters even better, he had a number of samples of Lost Abbey beers on hand.

Some of those were pretty potent and by the end of the talk we were all a bit loopy, which made it even more amusing that the session was punctuated by corks flying through the air preceded by loud POP!s as the bottles were uncorked!


Clockwise from upper left: More Beer!'s table at the Hospitality Suite; Rogue Brewery's table;
Cellarmaster Mike McDole and Randy enjoying a well-earned break in the HS; the Brewing Network
crew pouring their beers in the HS, on the Maltose Falcons' awesome portable bar.


From L to R: A part of DOZE's offerings on Club Night; Dick and Nate in the DOZE
tent; Aaron and I manning the DOZE food table.

With Charlie Papazian.
The lady who snapped the picture for me somehow managed
to capture the precise instant in which we both blinked!


The Conference closed with an awards ceremony and a banquet directed by DOZE's own Sean Paxton, a.k.a. The Homebrew Chef. Sean designed a menu for us in which every dish was paired to a beer from Rogue Brewery, and that beer was used in the preparation of the dish itself. These included an Asian-inspired salad, a choice of roast pork or chicken, and a delicious chocolate mousse dessert made with Tcho brand chocolates and a surprisingly awesome chocolate-infused imperial stout which, we were told, is brewed under contract by Rogue for sale abroad and, other than at our tables, was unavailable in the US.


Preparing for the NHC


With the advent of the AHA's National Homebrewers' Conference upon us a group of DOZErs gathered at Black Diamond Brewery to unpack, sort, and record entries from all over the country for the National Homebrew Competition to be held at the Conference.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Utah passes HB51

On March 24th the Gov, of Utah signed into law HB 51, which among other things ammends the regulations on manufacture of alcoholic beverages such that,

(b) An individual may without being licensed under this chapter manufacture in the 83 individual’s personal residence a fermented alcoholic beverage if:

(i) the individual is 21 years of age or older;

(ii) the individual manufactures no more than:

(A) 100 gallons in a calendar year, if there is one individual that is 21 years of age or 87 older residing in the household; or

(B) 200 gallons in a calendar year, if there are two or more individuals who are 21 years of age or older residing in the household;

(iii) the fermented alcoholic beverage is manufactured and used for personal or family 91 use and consumption, including use at an organized event where fermented alcoholic 92 beverages are judged as to taste and quality; and

(iv) the fermented alcoholic beverage is not for:

(A) sale or offering for sale; or

(B) consumption on a premise licensed by the commission.

In other words, Homebrewing is now Legal in Utah.


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