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Category: beer review

01/31/07 08:00 - ID#37941

Beer Review #3 - Southern Tier

I'm so sorry about delaying the latest beer review - in all honesty, (e:jason) and I procured the beer we wanted to review but ended up getting drunk off of it - and you'll understand why in a minute. As a result I didn't want to write a review of a beer that could be based on cloudy, inaccurate judgment - that wouldn't be honest. So, after repeated quaffings, here you are!

We wanted to highlight a local brewery which I think is absolutely
fantastic, with some exceptions depending on the variety. For example, they make a Tripel that I really, really dislike. However, I wanted to take two of their Imperials to highlight how quality brewing can mask alcohol content and bitterness, and ultimately makes for deceivingly drinkable beer. To illustrate this, and to get you lords and ladies drunk, we've selected two different styles - the Heavy Weizen and the Unearthly Imperial India Pale Ale.

About the brewery - the brewery is located in a small manufacturing space in the town of Lakewood, NY - about 3 miles from my childhood home in Jamestown. The people that run this outfit are very laid back and hippie-ish - the brewery actually has a small pub in it so Jay and I always make a point to stop by and have a few pints... and usually fill up a growler with their fabulous Porter. God I love that beer - it makes most other porters (to my palette anyway) taste watered down. They are very friendly and tours are available - having toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis I think this is a great way to kill an afternoon and learn a little bit about America's favorite drink. Their web site - - gives you a feel about the hip artistic design of the bottles and all the information you'd ever want about the beers themselves.

Before anybody accuses me of homerism - if the beer sucked I'd just come right out and say it. Their beer definitely doesn't suck and at worst it's better than most commercially produced "specialty" beers. Some of their varieties are better than others, and I've tried every single one, so if you have a question about a specific variety of Southern Tier just leave a comment or ask me if you catch me on the street!

Southern Tier Heavy Weizen - Imperial Unfiltered Wheat Ale

8.0% ABV, 38 IBUs - available most places locally in 22 oz. bottles, or if you can find it, it is available on tap as well. I know that as of last
week Heavy Weizen was on tap at Cole's, so if you are out and about you may see it.

This beer is a variation on the traditional hefeweizen (hefeweiss, weissbier, wheat beer, sometimes white beer) that you'll find from brands such as Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Franziskaner and the like. Its a traditional German variety that has a flavor derived from the special top-fermenting yeast that lends its distinct flavor. Two traditional flavors that people associate with hefeweizen are banana and clove, although many beers brewed in this style
have a citrus tone as well. To call a beer a "hefeweizen" is to assume that the beer has remained unfiltered - this leaves the body of the beer cloudy and when poured into a proper glass reveals a unique look. Americans traditionally love to put citrus in this style of beer, although purists absolutely hate this idea and feels it takes away from the head and the citrus tone inherent in the brew. I have a tight-assed compromise explanation on what is proper here, but I will save it for last.

Putting it simply, Heavy Weizen slots somewhere between Blue Moon and a traditional hefeweizen. I compare it to Blue Moon, but Blue Moon is a Belgian-style wheat ale and rather than a German hefeweizen. They are both wheat beers but I promise that if you taste both side by side you'll understand that Hefeweizens are usually a tad sharper in flavor, have more carbonation and have a more consistent golden color.

When you look at Heavy Weizen, it has a dense, hazy golden color with a slight reddish/orangish hue to the center of the glass. If you smell the beer before you sip it, you'll notice a spicy side to the beer that lends itself more towards the Blue Moon side of things. Heavy Weizen reveals more of the hefe side of things as you drink and get into the glass. Bananas, cloves, wheat, yeast and less acidic citrus dominate the muted but very well established flavor combination - this is a very easy to drink beer. Wheat beers in the German style are well known for their refreshing quality in the summertime; in this beer you have that same quality but to a lesser extent. Mid level carbonation, slight spiciness, twice the alcohol content and general mouth feel of the beer make it less so. Despite the alcohol content, there is only a slight boozy quality to the brew; the cleverly balanced flavors and heavier mouth feel (relative to hefeweizen, that is) match up well and only towards the aftertaste to you notice a deceivingly slight kick.
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Category: beer review

01/14/07 02:31 - ID#37684

Beer Review #3 - Coming Soon!

(e:jason) and I have chosen to highlight what we believe is without question the best local brewery, Southern Tier, and two of their amazing Imperial brews - the "Heavy Weizen" and the "Unearthly Pale Ale."

Review coming soon!


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Category: beer review

01/04/07 02:31 - ID#37535

Comments, Promises and Caveats

I'm pleased that people seem to have taken to my beer reviews! After thinking about it a little bit (and probably some of what I'm about to say is understood already) I realized that I should probably throw down a list of disclaimers:

1. Talking about how the beer tastes will only be part of the reviews - I intend on passing along a little bit of knowledge about the style of beer, how it may compare to something you are definitely familiar with and a bit of background. This way, as you try new things you can be familiar with the different styles of brew and have a frame of reference when you are trying two things that are similar, and vice versa. Most people understand that a porter is different than a lager, but its not exactly common knowledge HOW they are precisely different. Learning a little bit about what we're drinking is part of the fun as far as I'm concerned and it will make you look smart at a party.

2. I may suggest where to locate a product but by no means am I promoting one retailer over another. For the purposes of the review we'll be looking at different beers that may simply not be available anywhere but a specialty store and so my hands are tied. Luckily for us, we live in a city plagued by chronic alcoholism so a lot of hard to find stuff is within our grasp. Except for Hacker-Pshorr - what the hell is up with that, Premier Group and/or Wegman's and/or Consumers?

3. I want to try to approach the reviews from as neutral a perspective as possible, but we're human and we all have different tastes. You may end up not liking something I liked in a review, so keep that in mind before you go and purchase something. You likely already have a bit of an idea, whether you realize it or not, about the things that you like and your willingness to take a leap of faith based on something somebody wrote. I hate saying that since part of the spirit of me doing this is to encourage people to branch out and try something completely different, but I'm definitely not handing out refunds.

4. Maybe there is a killer find out there that you think I should try and review - by all means I am open to suggestions, so don't be afraid to offer something up. (e:chico) asked so he shall receive!

5. I will never waste my money on buying Busch or PBR let alone drink them, so you'll never see commercial domestic beer (in the traditional sense) in my reviews.

6. Like I said, the goal is to have some fun, learn some stuff, try new and exciting beers (or old yet still kicking varieties) and hopefully at least one person over the course of time will try and like something I liked - there is always a degree of pleasure in introducing something to somebody and getting a positive reaction, isn't there? If you dislike something I liked, please comment and go through your points - it will benefit everybody.
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Category: beer review

01/03/07 02:43 - ID#37498

Beer Review!

(e:jason) and I have a habit of picking up new and exciting beers to try a couple times a week. Last night it dawned on me - one of us should have a beer review to put in our journals! I wish I would have thought about this sooner so I will review two beers for you here in this journal - the first is an absolutely epic Trappist style monk-brewed beer from Belgium, and the other is a traditional English style pub ale from Leeds.

I hope that you guys enjoy the reviews - I want to encourage people who might be afraid of trying something new, or who might be afraid of plunking down $11 for a 4-pack without knowing what it is that they are getting. In the future (e:jason) may place the reviews in his journal, depending on his desire to do so.

Review #1 - Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Belgium) - - 10/10

Check out how in the bag I am - I'm cockeyed and red faced! New rule - treat high ABV drinks with respect! Do not let this fact deter you from my review - I assure you that while I was tipsy this was only my second drink and my pallete was keen as ever!

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11.3% abv, 330ml bottle, $5-$10 per bottle.

Simply put, this is one of the greatests beers I've ever had. This beer is produced by one of only six trappist breweries in the entire world - its an exceedingly rare beer and usually very expensive. Luckily for us, you can find it at Premier Gourmet.

What is a trappist brewed beer? My friend, allow me the pleasure of introducing you to the finest, rarest and priciest beers on earth. These certified Trappist beers are made at only six places, all located in Belgium (Rochefort, Orval, Chimay, Achel, Westvleteren, Westmalle). Depending on the abbey that we are talking about, some or all of the production is done by the monks - the employment of laymen to help with the brewing process is common among Trappist breweries.

Why are these beers so rare and exceedingly expensive? The principle behind it is that they only make enough to keep the monastery going and don't give a damn about market demand. As a result, only a few places import these beers. In the case of Westvleteren, they do not commercially sell the beer - there are only two places on earth where you can legally purchase the beer. One is the brewery itself in Belgium, and the other is the inn directly across the street from the brewery. The monks very much discourage the reselling of the product and adjust how much individuals can buy. Even when you buy the Westvletern 12 it costs $40 a case. If you found it 'illegally' it would cost over twice as much... Westy 12 is considered the world's greatest beer yet it is utterly unavailable to the world.

In the case of Rochefort, both monks and laymen are involved in the production of the beer. These are handmade brews, lovingly and meticulously cared for during the brewing process. They are unique, rare and unlike anything you've ever tried. The monasteries usually have long, proud brewing traditions dating back several hundred to even 1,000 years in the case of Orval! What is even more incredible is that at Rochefort, the monks do not drink their beer so they have no idea what it tastes like! Divine inspiration, indeed - this is a beer that is universally considered one of the top 2 or 3 beers on earth.

I first had this beer a year ago in Seattle. The beer must be poured in a goblet to appreciate the color, head and nose of the beer. The beer has a very dark amber brown color, slightly opaque and outwardly shiny quality to it - it is truly a beautiful thing. Even the slightest bit of light makes the brew shine like a diamond when you look at it - can you possibly get more attractive? Giving it a good sniff before drinking reveals exactly how boozy this one is - at 11.3% its not the heaviest drink out there but I advise to sip this one slightly chilled. Upon tasting it you'll notice the leather, plum, raisin, brown sugar, bubble gum, rum-soaked dark berries and an amazing array of spices that deliver a unique and fabulous flavor. Its the most complex combinations of flavor that I've ever tasted in a beer. Given the layers of flavor and the high alcohol content you might assume that this is a heavy beer - not so! Lesser brewers have to compensate for complicated flavor and high alcohol content; most of the time the result is a beer that feels like a brick at the bottom of your stomach. Rochefort 10 is velvety and deceives you concerning the alcohol content - this explains my red face in the picture. Don't drink too fast!

Rochefort 10 is bitter, slightly sweet, medium bodied, fruity and incredible. If you are going to enjoy this with food, I would recommend treating the combination as if you are trying to match a good red wine.

Review #2 - Tetley "Smoothflow" English Ale (England) - 7/10

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3.8% abv, 14.9 oz. can, $6 per 4-pack at Consumer Beverage.

In the United States Tetley is a name primarily associated with tea - this is a beer brewed by Carlsberg in Leeds, Yorkshire. Our supermarkets regularly carry UK-based widget ales with tall cans - anybody that has spent time in a beer section has surely seen Boddington's on the shelf. Smoothflow (as we'll call it anyway - this beer is nearly identical to another beer with a similar name that is marketed in the UK) is very comparable to Boddington's and is probably closest in resemblance to that beer. Therefore, if you are a Boddy's fan then you will find a direct comparison with this brew.

In a pint glass this beer has a red/brown/gold color to it, and thanks to the widget the can will produce a magnificent, creamy head that will last to the bottom of the glass. The beer has a more profound flavor than Boddington's with a light nutty, caramel flavor. Imagine the creamy texture of Guinness and the lightness of an ale and you can get the picture. It is not a heavy beer despite the texture and is easily drinkable. The creamy ale style typically doesn't have a strong flavor - if you are used to flavorful beers this beer will seem like a light one. In fact, if you are a light beer drinker I'd encourage you to try this - its better than Amstel Light, is light as a feather after you drink it and is vastly more delicious. Without careful attention you could drink through six of these with ease, which is nice. Here is the kicker - Coors Light would get you drunk faster and since this is Buffalo we all know that this is an important consideration.

This is one of the standard pub ales that you would find in England. I read another review that referred to this beer as "filth" - this is out of order! Ease of drinking and the creamy yet light texture make this one an obvious choice for an "every day" type of drink, if it were available in mass market. If you want something better than domestic beer that won't hammer you and will leave you without that really heavy feeling in your belly then I would recommend giving this a shot. This beer is what it is though and isn't particularly adventurous despite the fact that this is an enjoyable beer to kick back with. Better than average. Whether or not its comparable to light beer nutritionally is something I'll look into later, but if you are a light beer drinker then I believe this would be a good fit for you.
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