Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ayinger Jahrhundert Bier (Helles Lager) Aying, Germany 5.5%abv

The straw/pale golden body with a big pure white foamy head is a one-of-a-kind, in a league of its own. I drank the first one too fast to notice the lace, so I popped open another and noticed some sticky lace. The floral hop and lightly roasted malt lasts a good long time. The lightly roasted malt is heavier than it appears and possesses a pleasing sweetness. A bountiful sharp-edged bitterness is lightly tempered with caramel notes. A faint note of vanilla is detected. Balances slightly, although the hoppiness remains dominant. Hmmm, grilled bratwurst would hit the spot right about now!
Food: German, Fish, Shellfish, Pork.

Pilsner Urquell Plzen, Czech Republic 4.4%abv

Bright, shiny gold color with a snow-white head. A nice light malty smoothness and almost oily roundness makes this Czech Pils very gulpable. The abundant Saaz hops and the crisp sharp bitterness (and aroma) is unmistakable and proper for the style. A mild herbal taste in the background keeps the metallic hop bite in Czech. Low alcohol content.
Foods: Pan Asian, Curried Dishes, Poultry in light creamy sauces, Pork, sharp cheeses.

Czechvar Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic 5.0%abv

Serious Lager. A true representation of the Pils/Lager style. A must try!
This Pils/Lager from Ceske Budejovice (Budweis), Czech Republic has been embroiled in a one hundred plus year legal battle over the name “Budweiser”. Pours a dull Blonde/Gold color with a nice frothy white head and plenty of sticky lace. The distinctive Euro-hop aroma awakens the senses upon pouring. The Light/Medium sweet malt compliments the crisp spicy and somewhat metallic hop bitterness. Clean and dry with a nice mellow herbal quality. No beech wood? - That’s a plus! Sold as “Czechvar” Beer in the US and some scattered countries giving in to corporate pressure, and Budvar elsewhere. You have to try it! least to help defray legal expenses.
Foods: Indian, Thai, Chinese, spicy, mild or sharp cheeses, chicken

Radeberger Saxony, Germany 4.8%abv

This crisp Pilsner is shiny straw in color. Though light in malt body, it maintains a refreshing herbal malt flavor. The aroma is lightly malty sweet with hops being the dominant smell. The sharp metallic and citrus hops blend in nicely with the malt, which reveals itself further throughout the glass. A hint of herbs and lemon can be detected. Nice white head lasts awhile and leaves behind a nice lace. Bright and clean finish.
Foods: Mild Cheeses, Fish, Shellfish, Poultry.

Rating Beer “In The Moment”- It’s Really All About the Beer!

Have you ever considered the circumstances you find yourself in while you’re rating beer and how it may affect your ability to remain objective? Rating beer, or in my case, "researching" beer is an additional activity attached to the actual act of examining and consuming the product. It should be an enjoyable part of the beer-drinking process, but it should be taken seriously as well. There are many different reasons to rate beer. Some, like me for instance, like to keep track of all the different beers we have sampled. After over twenty-five-hundred beers, (not all at one sitting) it’s not always easy to recollect with any degree of accuracy exactly how each beer looked, smelled, and tasted. Another good reason to rate is to track year-to-year quality consistencies of breweries. Certain beers are well suited for cellaring. As these vintage-type beers age, they evolve in flavor, aroma, and appearance. So rating beers of this nature can get very interesting. Of course it’s of vital importance to maintain these vintage brews in a light and temperature-controlled (around 55°F) environment. But I digress. Vintage and cellaring is a topic worthy of a separate article.

Anyone who takes rating beer seriously understands that ratings can be somewhat subjective, with personal preferences coming into play. Raters who prefer rich stouts and porters may, for instance, need to raise their objectivity level to fully appreciate and describe a delicate pilsner or crisp clean lager. The flavors and aromas of the lighter beers are naturally subtler and require an increased amount of concentration to identify specific brew characteristics.

Which brings me to the point. As we rate beers we have a responsibility to the reader to remain objective in spite of personal preferences. A less obvious factor that may create bias in our writings- is what Co-founder, Todd Alström refers to as, "The Moment", or the current circumstances we find ourselves in while we are rating.

For instance, I was laboring with heavy video gear in the sweltering 105° F humid heat of smoggy Bangkok, Thailand. I had no idea my hotel could be so well hidden and frustratingly distant. As I was about to ask for directions ... again, or worse, hail a tuk-tuk (little rear-seated, open-air, death-trap scooters with awnings), I spotted my hotel.

Dripping with sweat, I entered the lobby. The staff, astutely sensing my extreme discomfort, relieved me of my gear and provided me a hot, scented washcloth. The inviting teak and mahogany bar's A-C was blowing Arctic quality air. Freshly chilled prawns with a spicy dipping sauce and jumbo salted peanuts were promptly delivered to me at the bar. "Welcome back mistah Don", chirped the cute barmaid in the tight silk dress, as she handed me an ice-cold Singha Beer in a frosted mug. "Ahhh"!

Now fellow beer raters, I pose to you the following question; given my extreme change in fortune and most excellent surroundings, should I be allowed to bestow the non-existent “10” overall rating on Singha? The answer, of course, is no. Let’s face it; embalming fluid (if it was cold and had a head) would be tempting in the aforementioned circumstances. By the way, Singha is a pretty good beer and it needn't be served tongue- numbingly cold to enjoy. No beer deserves near freezing conditions.

Remember, though, objectivity is key. Although that beer you're about to consume with your favorite special pizza may seem to taste better, don't be fooled. Beer can improve a dinner, but the dinner cannot improve the beer. Conversely, a bad meal should not reflect poorly on the beer. That promotion at work will not make your beer taste better. You will, naturally, enjoy it way more. That tasty ale you just enjoyed will not make your mate more attractive ... it may, however, seem that way. Beer IS magic like that! And the magic of beer can be tricky!

So, please, for the sake of our readers, and for our own benefit, let’s try to remain focused on the beer. We are, after all rating the beer, not the “moment”.

Happy Rating!


Jever Northern Germany 4.9%abv

Light gold in color with a snow-white, fairly long lasting head and some sticky lace. The aroma of fresh cut hay with herb garden smells. Fresh hop, a faint sulfuric smell and a faint maltiness. The malt body is somewhat light and has a clean herbal and slightly grainy character. The abundantly applied Hallertau hops are spicy, lightly citrusy and a bit metallic, creating a bit of a back of the throat edginess and bite. The taste of hard water adds to the intense bitterness. Fairly long shelf life due to high hops.
Foods: Seafood, poultry, German sausages, mildly spicy dishes.