Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beer Style of the Week – Witbier (White Beer) – French (la bière blanche)

Week 21

Looks like we missed a week, due to many factors, mainly concerning the author was busy drinking the beer without actually writing about the beer (he always take notes, at least).

Summer is finally here in New England and we can look forward to a wide variety of beers that are better suited to hot dog days in the sun. Light German-style Lagers, Kölch, Crisp Pilsners, Summer Ryes, English Bitters and even mild Porters and Stouts may fill the bill (they can be quite refreshing!)

This week we focus on a style that should be in the Top 3 all time of Summer Beers. The Wit, or Biere Blanche. If you go to any beer rating website you will find a very wide range of reviews and comments concerning White Ales. There seems to be a love it or hate it, or a complete indifference to it (especially the French versions). They are a very distinctive and unique ale style. Comparing them to any other style of beer does them an injustice. Don’t even bother sampling a Wit after downing an IPA or any hoppy, or high ABV beer. You’ll totally miss the point. Go at them with a clean palette and an open mind and chances are you’ll come back for more.

Witbier is a very hazy pale (whiteish) unfiltered, top fermenting beer, generally brewed with a high percentage of wheat in the mash. A mix of light oats are sometimes thrown into the kettles for added sweetness and/or body. Oftentimes known as White Beer, the Wit is spiced and flavored with citrus peel, coriander, pepper, ginger and/or a bit of bitter orange. A good Witbier has subtle flavor and aroma profiles. Nothing should jump out a grab our taste buds by the neck. Instead, we have the pleasure of seeking and finding a refreshing and highly drinkable beer. Many proper beer bars will offer a wedge of lemon or lime on the side to squeeze into the glass. An improper bar squeezes the citrus and leaves the wedge in your glass. THIS IS WRONG! To squeeze or not to squeeze should be left up to the customer.

Witbiers should be fairly low in alcohol at 4% - 5.2% ABV. Trappist Wits and Double Wits have more alcoholic punch and should not be considered Summer-time, lawn-mowing beers. We do want you to keep all of your toes attached to your feet, after all. German Berliner Weisse and Hefe Weisse are different, separate styles and will be profiled in a later article.

Wits pair very well with mild creamy cheeses, fresh mixed salads, shellfish, grilled fish or chicken. Try it with Middle Eastern foods such as Hummus, Minty Tabouli, Grilled Eggplant and Falafel.

Belgium and France (Land of Origin)

Hoegaarden Original - Brouwerij van Hoegaarden – Hoegaarden, Belgium – 4.9% ABV

At first glance you wonder if the waitress accidentally brought a tulip-shaped glass of milky yellow dishwater to your table. Then, oh yeah! This is the White Ale I ordered. It just looks the way it's supposed to! The cloudy pale, off white, tinted yellow color reveals a light body. Whiffs of clove and hop aroma with a trace of alcohol rise up. High in complex bitter hops with citrus undertones. Extra Dry. Fine Carbonation with a fizzy head and fine lace. Very sharp and spicy.

Amadeus Biere Blanche – Les Brasseurs de Gayant – Douai Cedex, France – 4.5% ABV

750 ml Corked bottle. Freshness date stamped on back. Served in a tall Weisse Glass.

It pours a hazy milky lemonade color with a very fast-fading snowy white head. Some thin wispy lacing trails down and dissolves.

Nice lemony and peppery smells rise at first pour. A light smell of bread dough, cloves and orange zest inch forward. Is that cardamom in the distance?

The flavors mirror the aromas in nearly every way. The tart, astringent lemon taste is perhaps a bit too over the top, but it does cut through and declare its dominance.

An odd peppery saline is noticed in the after taste, and then seems to vanish. It could be the bottom of bottle sediment. I need to try this one again to be sure.


Estrella Damm Inedit – Barcelona, Spain – 4.8% ABV

26.4 oz. dark olive green bottle. Freshness date stamped on neck label.

Listed as a Witbier, more like a mild farmhouse.

The color is an opaque, foggy caramel candy with a rocky, firm white head. Patchy and trailing lace lasts throughout the glass.

Aromas of herbs and flowers are present at first pour. Smells of coriander and citrus follow and remain. A light whiff of wet cut grass seems out of place. A hint of banana sneaks in late. The flavors are mild yet distinct. Orange Tang, herbs, and a little wheat in the background. Tastes of tart Chardonnay, citrus peel and limes are very pleasant. As in the aroma, a slight taste of banana is noticed as it warms.

This is a very gulpable brew! Complex, but subtle. Unusual and difficult to compare.

Nice fringe beer, but pricey!

Netherlands Biere De Blanche

Wieckse Witte – De Ridder Brewery – Maastricht, Netherlands – 5% ABV

I ordered this Biere Blanc (White Beer) at a bar in Belgium and of course, assumed it was brewed in Belgium. I didn't find out until I returned home and looked it up to complete my notes. Oh well! This cloudy gold brew has more body than I expected. The medium hops have grapefruit-like and citrusy bitterness. A clovey aroma is quite noticeable. Clove-like flavors dominate while a faint hint of camphor can be tasted. Overall this is a delicate, yet flavorful and balanced beer. Quite drinkable.

New England Whites

Allagash White – Portland, Maine – 5.2% ABV 12 oz. Stubby brown bottle. Served in a fluted Weizen beer glass.
It pours a cloudy lemony creamy off-yellow color with a full frothy, fluffy white head and loads of clingy lacing.
The smell is a clean mix of fresh bread dough, citrusy lemon zest, spices, cloves, and citrusy hops. A faint smell of green banana and a wisp of vodka trail.
The flavors are amazingly balanced as well. Tart citrus, oranges, wheat malt, citrusy hops and a mix of spices, most notably white pepper and coriander mingle together nicely.
The mouthfeel has a slightly astringent tang to it, though it seem to have a thirst cutting effect.
This White can hang with the French and Belgian Wits any day!

Long Trail White – Bridgewater Corners, Vermont – 4.7% ABV

12 oz. brown bottle - Served in a Sam Adams fluted glass.

It' got the cloudy Witbier off-yellow color, but the head fades rather quickly.

The aroma is subdued for the style, with not much in the way of citrus or spiciness. A little lime smell. A bit of malt. Not much else.

The flavor department is much the same.

I'm afraid that the brewers were trying to be too careful not to go crazy with the spiciness and the edgy citrus and orange flavors, but in doing so they have missed the point of the Witbier.

But all that aside, I like this beer as palette cleanser. It's sort of a nice beer to keep on hand for newbies to the style as an entry level Belgian White.

Samuel Adams White Ale is a very worthy Summer Seasonal Offering

Harpoon’s UFO White may be the most popular of all New England White Ales. Cisco’s White Lady is also an easy-to-find- White and is available in cans ( think boating, camping and beach!)

Viva la Biere de Blanche!!!


Quote: “May Ninkasi (Sumerian Goddess of Intoxicating Beverages) live with you,

Let her pour your beer everlasting.

My sister, your grain – its beer is tasty, my comfort” – Sumerian greeting

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let’s Have a Beer! And Other Very Random Thoughts About Beer…

Let’s have, get together or meet for a beer. It’s what many delusional beer-drinking buddies say to one another. What we mean is; Let’s have a few or many beers! One beer is rarely sufficient, unless it's in the form of a growler. Rarely do we hear; “Hey let’s have a coffee”. Instead we leave an opening for perhaps a second cup by saying, “Let’s meet for coffee”.

Now, I do have friends who are more realistic and come right out and suggest we go out for beers. They stop short of suggesting we go out and drink ourselves stupid, but I like their openness.

Another random beer-induced thought is; Common Beer Etiquette. Say you invite some friends over for a Beer and Food Pairing Party and a friend of one of your friends brings a sixer of Corona and some limes. It’s probably safe to say you might overlook, or even welcome someone bringing Stella Artois, Heineken or Becks and some cheese, but Corona? No way! When you think of a discolored liquid that passes through a Mexican donkey’s intestines after he washed down rotting cattle corn with a case of warm Busch Lite? (Also an Anheuser-Busch product) think Corona Extra (Extra Bad?). Yeah, like “Imported” from Mexico somehow makes it drinkable.

But back to the point; what should you do? This person is obviously a clueless cretin, so any attempts to rehabilitate his attraction to shite beer are probably a hopeless endeavor. I guess you could offer him a Stella or Heinie and hopes he at least gets the awful taste out of his mouth.

One last random beer thought: Yesterday morning, as dim, early light entered and interrupted my fading beer dreams. I began to contemplate my relationships with friends as it relates to beer. Friends whom I grew up with and still hang out with for poker, beer-drinking and fishing nights, always (ALWAYS) have a beer in hand. It’s like an extra appendage. The opposable thumb, after all, is perfectly created for grasping a glass, can or mug of beer.

My friends and I have long ago agreed that when we are reminiscing about some glory days past event in our lives, we can leave out the part where we say, “we were drinking beer”. It is just assumed that we were drinking beer and we no longer need to throw that piece of information into the story.

God forbid I should be rushed to the hospital, or worse, and have one of my friends try to identify me. “I’m sorry doctor, but I can’t be sure that’s my friend Don lying there. Here, put this bottle of beer in his hand, so I can be sure”. Oh yeah that’s Don! I’ve seen him like that hundreds of times! He’s fine!”


Quote: “Beer he drank, seven goblets. His spirit was loosened. He became hilarious. His heart was glad and his face shone”. – ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ – The oldest tale from around 300 B.C.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Drunkest State in America?

The Drunkest state in America as reported in

Quote:This fall, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) released a comprehensive study of alcohol consumption per capita for every state in the U.S. as of 2007.

Not to spoil the fun of clicking through the attached slide show links, I'm wondering how surprising the results are to you, the reader.

Drum roll please...

Enjoy! ... es-america

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beer Style of the Week - One of a Kind Beer (The Bastards) Imperial Pumpkin

Beer Style of the Week – The Bastards (One of a Kind Beer) Part 3 of 4

Week 20

As we learned from our friend, Horst Dornbusch, German Beer Historian and Writer, a beer “Style” cannot be created from a single or even two or three similarly brewed beers. A “Style” is created when there are several brewers who create a beer that can be compared and contrasted to one another. For example; Pale Ale – There are literally 1000 different, yet similarly brewed Pale Ales. Imperial Stouts – While there are perhaps 100 on the shelves or on tap around the globe, there are plenty enough to weigh against and compare to each other. Even Imperial Coffee or Imperial Java Stouts meet the criteria to fit into a “Style”.

On the other hand, we find beers like Samuel Adam’s Utopias that more closely resemble a Sherry, at 27% ABV than a beer, that fall loosely into the “Strong Ale” category, yet it is a one of a kind brew with nothing to compare it to.

Q: Is Pumpkin Ale a style?

A: Yes, glad you asked! It’s one of the oldest American original styles. The early colonists learned to brew beer with whatever fermentable fruits and/or vegetables they could get their blessed little hands on. Pumpkin, tree bark (for bittering), molasses, squash, you name it. Beer was important and damn the lack of barley malt and hops, if they wanted beer, they improvised!

Q: So what about Imperial Pumpkin Stout Ale?

A: We covered that “Bastard” in Part 2 with Cape Ann’s Fisherman’s Imperial Pumpkin Stout. There are a few Imperial Pumpkin Stouts floating around out there, but certainly not enough to fit into a style.

So that’s where we find this week’s ‘Beer Style of the Week’- The Bastards Part 3 - Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin (Pugley’s Signature Series) It’s an amped-up Pumpkin Ale on steroids, sans the Stout!

Shipyard Brewing – Smashed Pumpkin – Portland, Maine – 9% ABV

22oz brown bottle. Served in a Chimay goblet.
It pours an oily, orange-hued amber color with a beige head along with some wisps of trailing lacing.
A strong and delightful whiff of rum-soaked pumpkin pie rises at first pour. I think I can actually smell the crust! The nutmeg spiciness is subdued, but thoughts of Thanksgiving dessert flood my senses. A solid malty smell mingles with some spicy and citrusy hops. Dark rum in the nose never fades.
The flavors are bold and upfront. Very little in the way of subtleties. Big spiced pumpkin taste, Big doughy maltiness, Big ruminess, and not so big, yet noticeable hoppiness.
SO much better than Shipyard's other Pumpkin Ale, and not because it's much bigger. It is big but balanced and wonderfully rich and decadent.

Goes well with Turkey Dinner and of course, Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Let’s see how it ages...

Cheers and Happy Father’s Day! (even if you’re reading this after your special day)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This Old New England Beer Examiner Examines the New Old London Pubs

London, England

It is with a bit of regret I must report a sad reality. The dreary old darkened public houses of London’s fabled past are, well, to be frank, fading into the past. That isn’t to say the Public Houses (Pubs) are dying out altogether – far from it. They who are amiable to change with the times are simply evolving into a brighter, lighter future. Those who dwell in the past will be passed over in time. Rubbing shoulders with sweaty chimney sweeps and coal miners who would blurt out incomprehensible slurry sentences such as, “I say…cromp frumptonly blithering trousers rather and by-the-by? Ay, mate?” are beginning to lose their “charm.”

A pub can retain its cozy charm without being dark, musty, cigarette smoke-choking bat caves. The furniture can be comfortable and inviting without being old tattered sagging, worn out fart catchers. A decent pub can allow for more than four basic ale choices, one red or white wine and a few blended whiskeys.

Just how does the modern day public house keep up with the times?

They throw the dusty drapes out and open the shades wide, add a few lights and a couple mirrors, lighten the paint tint, expand and freshen up the menu a bit, add a touch of modern flair (not to yuppie extremes, of course), and most importantly, add a little more alcoholic beverage selections (read more craft beer choices here), and comme par magie, you have the new old London Pub.

There are, I’m glad to report, plenty of old established London pubs who have managed to retain their original inviting DNA footprint whilst welcoming all generations and spectrums and classes of the new world order. And speaking of which, I think I’ll order another fine ale!

The public house or publican for short, or pub, shorter still is not to be confused with restaurants, taverns or brewpubs. Pubs, likes churches, in one form or another have traditionally been the focal point of many communities. They’ve been a place for the locals to gather, gossip, shoot the shit, and discuss local and world events, politics, family life and death. Monarchies and governments have been overthrown and wars waged over pints in local pubs. To put it into context, the pub serves as the platform, ale is the social lubricant. Since the Bronze Age Britain (2500 – 850 BC), pubs have been deeply embedded into the English, Irish and Scottish way of life. Meet at the pub; grab a pint and talk…in that order.

Many of the classic pubs will offer the Ploughman’s Lunch (usually consisting of; Crusty Bread, Local Cheeses and Meats (mostly Hams), Pickles and Chutney. Many Pubs will also serve Pasty Meat Pies)

You can sample Beer-battered Fish and Chips, Bangers (local sausages) and Mash (Potatoes) served with peas and Bread Pudding for dessert.

Here are just a few London Pubs that are well worth a visit:

The White Horse – Soho – Samuel Smith’s Brewery Owned – 45 Rupert St. This is a charming and cozy pub where the actors and actresses spill noisily in from the nearby theaters to greet, congratulate and toast each other. Tin ceilings, wood paneled walls, old paint-thickened window panes and comfy seating add to the traditional pub feel of this historic old pub. The staff is attentive, the ale is served properly, and the authentic English Pub Food is spot on! You can really feel the character(s) of Jolly Old London

The Red LionMayfair/Piccadilly – 2 Duke of York St. (off Jermyn St) - Fuller’s Owned –Charming old Victorian etched mirrors (installed originally so the barkeep could keep his eye on illicit dealings, especially the prostitutes who might sneak in for some quick business). The Red Lion is the only pub in the area to survive the Luftwaffe‘s bombing raids during WWII. Try their home-made Meat Pie paired with a fresh Fuller's Bitter. Tasty stuff!

Marquess of AngleseyCovent Garden - 39 Bow St. - Young’s Owned Pub. Try the award winning Steak and Ale Pie and/or Pork Pie. The West Country Beef Burger comes highly recommended as does the Salmon and Smoked Haddock Cakes. There are 3 vegetarian options.

The Nags Head – Belgravia/Knightsbridge – 53 Kinnerton St- Free HouseThis is the kind of pub Dickens himself would recognize. It’s old (250 year old), worn (in a very comforting way) intimate, cozy and charming. Pink ceramic hand pulls are mounted atop a gorgeous pewter draft engine. An eclectic assortment of posters, knick knacks and bric-a-bracs lend an interesting foreground to the dark wood paneling and bare wood floors. The compact but great beer selection is poured at the proper temperature. The food is authentic and true to an old pub. And praise the Pub Gods; no cell phone chatter is allowed! Marvelously preserved old Public House!

Draft House – Tower Bridge – 206 Tower Bridge Road -Free House – 27 Beers on Tap – 4 Cask Ales on a rotating basis – 180 Bottles of Beer – An eclectic gourmet food menu – A knowledgeable and friendly wait staff – Maybe it’s more of a Beer Bar than your traditional Pub, but it’s definitely a fantastic place to grab a couple pints and dinner. Do not miss The Draft House (3 locations in the London area)…no excuses!!!

New England Alternatives:

British Beer Company (7 Locations)

Pour Farm Tavern – New Bedford, MA

Gritty McDuff’s – Portland, ME

The Publick House (a Belgian-style pub) 1648 Beacon St Brookline, MA

Long live the Pub! They are not dying, just evolving.


Quote: “He is not deserving the name of Englishman who speaketh against ale, that is, good ale.” – George Borrow – 1803-1881

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The White Horse Pub - London

45 Rupert Street London's Theater District

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Draft House - Tower Bridge, London

Working on an article about the London Pubs. Now I'm a little stumped about The Draft House at Tower Bridge, London. It's really more of a "Beer Bar" than a "Pub" in the traditional sense, but it's a great place to have a beer and lunch regardless of what it is!
27 beers on Tap. 180 bottles. 4 Cask Ales (always rotating) Very good food! Comfortable seating! knowledgeable and friendly staff!
Rated Best Pub in London by Time Out London.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beer Research 101 - Read all about it...Beer that is

Beer Research 101

Read All About It - There are many books about beer and many websites dedicated to beer lovers all over the world. Before we get started it would be prudent to mention some the very best sources for learning more about our topic or for just picking up some tips to help us better understand this wonderful beverage we enjoy today. If you are looking to find books about beer written by a beer expert, the late Michael Jackson is synonymous with the modern craft-brew revolution. His 1977 book, The World Guide to Beer undeniably sparked many people to reconsider the bland, flavorless beer they were stuck drinking and seek out a better brew. Michael was also on the money with his Beer Companion and Pocket Guide to Beer. Sadly, Michael passed away to the big cozy pub in the sky in August 2007. He is missed not only for his fine writing about Scotch and Beer, but for his obvious love of life and making friends wherever he went. To learn more about this beer-writing pioneer visit his website at:

The Beer Companion – A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Finest Craft Beers by Stephen Snyder is a fine source of information. It’s well laid out and it’s a good book to pick up as a beer reference guide.

If you can find it, Beers of the World by Bill Yenne is one of the best coffee table-style books about beer written. The illustrations and photographs are quite pleasant to admire.

America’s Best Beers – A Complete Guide to the More than 350 Microbreweries and Brewpubs Across America By Christopher Finch and W. Scott Griffiths is a strongly opinionated beer rating guide. You may not agree with the tastes of these two beer connoisseurs, but that’s fine. This book has a solid foundation laid down by two experts and that should serve as inspiration for aspiring students of beer.

100 Years of Brewing, written by a German scholar and first published in 1903 by H.S. Rich & Co. and reprinted in 1974 by Arno, is a 781 page volume about the beer industry in the US at that time. The historical references to beer through the ages are detailed in a scholarly manner, but being that it was written by a German and translated into English during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The names of countries and regions of the earth at that time were curiously named. It was quite a chore to understand and cross-reference some of the author’s references of peoples and countries that existed thousands of years ago, but the effort was well worth it.

Speaking of German authors, Horst Dornbusch has written several books detailing Germany’s long brewing history. His writing is a rare combination of professorial detail and fun reading. “Prost – The Story of German Beer” is a must read. Good stuff!

Closer to home, we have New England beer writer, Andy Crouch’s “Good Guide to New England Beer”. Andy’s a full time lawyer, but his passion is beer. Pick up a copy of his book and a sixer of New England beer at the packie and enjoy!

As far as user-friendly websites go: BeerAdvocate (BA) is a clear winner. BA encourages user participation. Hosted by brothers Jason and Todd Alström, the Beer Advocate allows you to submit articles, opinions and information about great beer finds. It’s a great place to find out about beer related events around the globe. The BeerAdvocate’s mission is to encourage its members to go out and spread the gospel of a better beer, thus encouraging pubs, bars restaurants and retailers to stock a better selection of great beers. Question about a certain beer? Enter the Forum. The site is very well run and its members truly care about the betterment and promotion of good beer. I’ve met many true beer lovers and people that I consider to be actual beer connoisseurs at BA who have become my friends. The brothers have also launched a monthly magazine by the same name.

Other worth-while sites to visit are Steve Beaumont’s World of (lots of articles), and Michael Jackson’s (good articles and beer-related shopping here – though there’s a good deal of advertising to wade through, however, tastefully presented).

A good resource for finding many books and items for sale on the subject of beer, go to; The BeerBooks site is well laid out and fun to peruse.

Ideas, suggestions, historical facts, funny beer related stories, or any contributions by you, the reader, to the better understanding of beer, are welcome. Please feel free to comment on this or any of my articles.

Thanks and Cheers!

Why no, we’re not sitting around doing nothing. We’re researching beer.