August 2007

Monthly Archive

Flying Dog Tire Bite Golden Ale

Posted by on 30 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

One of the hardest things I learned as a young journalist is that the only person who could get away with being like Hunter S. Thompson was Hunter S. Thompson.

There’s a lot of Hunter in Flying Dog’s beers. His spirit is in the brew, not to mention on the labels. I mean, here’s a brewery who’s actual advertised slogan is:

Good Beer.
No Shit.

This one in particular reminds me of passage from Thompson’s The Curse of Lono, where he describes accidently running over someone’s dog. (I’d intended to quote the passage here, but I lent the book out years ago, never got it back, and the damn thing has become an expensive collector’s item.)

What does this have to do with beer? Not much. About as much as the names “Tire Bite” and “Flying Dog.”

Anyway, moving along…

I popped the top of this one and took a sniff, then a long snort. My younger daughter laughed at me, saying, “Why are you sticking the beer up your nose?”

Good question. Why do beer reviewers bother sniffing the beer? I mean, really? What is the point?

Anyway, sniffing this one rewarded me with a light, unremarkable hoppy scent.

I take the first sip. Light body, but not watery. Not overly carbonated. Good but unimpressive, slightly sweet, mild golden malt.

The strongest initial flavor is the hops, which are refreshing and a bit green. There’s a tangy, lingering aftertaste. Very tasty.

Over time, the beer goes from unimpressive to impressive. By the time I reach the bottom of the bottle I am seriously wishing for another.

The best thing I like about breweries such as Flying Dog is that they’re a kick in the balls to anyone who says all American beers taste like crap. There are a lot of American craft beers that I’d put up against any beer from any country. Flying Dog’s brews are among them.

I have yet to taste a Flying Dog beer that didn’t impress me.

Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale

Posted by on 28 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

It’s hot outside. Steam-room hot. The birds hop around, mouths open, too weary to fly.

I get home dripping sweat. It’s time for a beer. I would go so far as to say that right now a beer is completely necessary.

I’d been saving this one for a review — so in order to drink it, I have to write this. That’s just the way it is. Even if I’m not in the freaking mood — I mean, really, it’s just too hot.

Lily Allen on my iPod, Mission tortilla chips and a bowl of blood-red salsa in front of me on the table, I pop the top of this Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale.

It better be good. I’m in a pissy mood.

Smells good. Smells, in fact, awesome. The hops are strong but darkened by an aggressive malty bouquet. To my lips I raise the bottle and tip it way back.

Not a sip. I’m going for broke.

Eyes roll back in my head. Tongue tenses into a hard knot. Mouth puckers into a kiss around the lips of glass.

It’s good. It’s damn good. The hops sing a siren’s song, voice clear with a razor’s edge. It curls like smoke into bitter ringlets and rolls around in the dark umber malt. All of this plays out behind a thin yeasty curtain that hints of bottle fermentation.

This brew does its job, either dropping my temperature or making it so I don’t notice the heat as much.

It goes great, too, with the chips and salsa. And it’s elevated my mood.

All said and done, I wish I had more. It’s a groovy brew, and a definite Holy Beer contender. I’m putting it at 4.7 on the Holy Grail Scale.

Miller Genuine Draft

Posted by on 24 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

You have to wonder why Miller chose to put the word “genuine” on the label. What, has there been doubt that it’s something other than beer? So now they have to say, “Not only is this beer, it’s genuine beer!”

It’s sort of pathetic, in a way.

Then again, you have to admire that, unlike Coors boasting about their water source, and Budweiser spouting nonsense about aging inside Beachwood casks, they’re at least proclaiming their product to be nothing more than it is: beer.

Indeed, it would be refreshing to have Budweiser do something similar. Say like put in big letters: “Not poisonous! Our exclusive Beachwood aging process only makes it taste like poison.”

I’m happy to report that Miller Genuine Draft doesn’t taste like poison, and unlike Coors, it has a strong beer flavor. It’s not a particularly good beer flavor, but it’s undeniably beer.

Maybe that’s why they proclaim it to be genuine? As if, it’s the only positive thing they can honestly say about it?

I find it the least watery of all the common mass-produced American factory brews. It starts off with a beery flavor that tells of over-processed malts and generic hops. It fades slowly to a chemical tang, hinting at vast tanks of metal and large well-oiled gears. The aftertaste fades off into a gentle homogenized bitterness that is not satisfying, yet not that unpleasant.

The back of the label contends that it’s “Cold filtered four times to create a golden, rich flavor with remarkable smoothness.” Well, they have the “golden” part right. But smooth? Hmm. I guess if you compare it to broken glass or sandpaper, then yes, it’s smooth. Otherwise you have to wonder where these people get the idea of what “smooth” means.

Note to Miller: “Smooth” is a baby’s bottom, or the tender skin of a beautiful woman’s inner thighs. Try touching one or the other sometime, then go back and rethink the wording on your bottle’s back label.

To sum up, Miller “Genuine” beer is neither horrid nor good. It’s generic. And with that, I’m finished resetting my palate — I’m dying for some really high quality, worth-every-moment-you-spend-with-it brew.


Posted by on 21 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

“A brand that has stood the test of time,” says the label. “Brewed with 100% Rocky Mountain water for a legendary taste.”

They’re not lying. You can taste the legendary taste … of water.

I do have to admit, it’s good tasting water. Unlike their nemesis, Budweiser, which I find utterly vile — Coors has no vileness in it. The sad thing is that there’s nothing much there at all.

I am odd in that I like drinking bubbling water — it comes from growing up with parents who loved their scotch and sodas — and so seltzer water, club soda, and even tonic water tastes good to me. Coors is so close to club soda that I actually like it, but I really hesitate to call it a beer.

It’s club soda with a hint — a bare hint, mind you, almost microscopic — of beer flavor. A faint echo of beer flavor. A dim shadow on a cloudy day.

On first sip you can only really detect the tingling of carbonation. Hidden within that is the hint of hops, manifesting as the ghost of mild bitterness. After that sip is done, for several seconds there’s nothing at all. Then, as your mouth rests and your palate searches, it finds the slightest upwelling of beer flavor that lasts, perhaps, 40 seconds. Then it fades, leaving you wondering if you’d really tasted it, or if you’d imagined it.

I have on several occasions treated Coors like a Corona and jammed a lime wedge into the bottle. That and a bit of salt improve the taste by … well, by giving it some taste. Conversely, I can drink a Corona without a lime, and still recognize a strong taste of beer.

I can say this, though. It’s a good beer to use if you want to reset your palate for drinking other beers.

Organic Wild Hop Lager

Posted by on 19 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

I don’t know why but I could swear this was a twist-off cap. It’s not. And, I am in pain.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

So, with the cap off this Organic Wild Hop Lager, I take a sniff and almost fall over. It’s a nasal assault of stinky yeast. Gag.

Not a good portent for the taste, but, I’ve been fooled before. I raise it to my lips and bravely take that first sip.

The first thing that hits me is the hops. The beer is aptly named, these hops are definitely wild. The next sensation is that the beer is watery. That fades to leave a comfortable malt aftertaste that is quite pleasant and lingers a long while.

The smell did fool me. The beer is not yeasty at all. It’s good.

Looking over the label I find the name of the creators: Green Valley Brewing. I cringe. Yes, “green” is in right now — and I hear it everywhere — and maybe I’m a bit ahead of the curve but I sense a backlash coming.

Things shouldn’t be labeled green and organic, they should just be green and organic. It should be the norm. It gets old and annoying when people parade around proclaiming they’re doing the right thing. It starts to give off the feel of someone boasting their scatological excretions don’t smell.

Anyway, back to the beer. It’s still good, but it’s still watery. And it’s not very smooth — in fact it’s a bit rough around the edges. I guess that’s to be expected since the hops are “wild.”

I can’t really mark it down as a Holy Beer Contender. It’s good but not great. The hops are definitely good for you.

I guess I’d simply rate this one as very healthy.

And — shock of shocks — it turns out that “Green Valley Brewing” is owned by none other than the same people responsible for the Beachwood-aged fiasco commonly known as Budweiser.

Ziegen Bock Amber

Posted by on 17 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

After spending over a month and a half on assignment, I thought the perfect way to celebrate my return to Texas is with a distinctly Texan beer. You can’t get more Texan than this one. Just look at the label. There’s a red and black Texas logo, and at the bottom it states “Brewed Exclusively For Texas.”

By who?

Well, by my old friends at Anheuser-Busch, of course. This is none other than a Texas Budweiser wearing a German label.

Ziegen Bock, y’all! Pay no mind to the tiny letters spelling out Anheuser-Busch. We want all y’all to think of us as a craft beer!

This is not a craft beer. This is a mass produced beer made in a big clunking factory.

It does have a very light, but pleasant bouquet, so it does smell like beer. The first sip is a bit watery but flavorful. There’s a decent maltiness with a touch of ornamental hops, well balanced. For about 30 seconds it has the palate fooled. But then—

Uh-oh, here comes that Michelob aftertaste! The signature metallic chemical tang. It creeps up on you and, halfway through the bottle, has become the dominate flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. This is far better than Budweiser and Michelob, but falls short of what it’s trying to be … which is a good beer. It’s a barely passable beer, but not one I would ever choose unless the only other choice was one of Anheuser-Busch’s much less desirable products.

In other words, this is not a Groovy Brew, and not a very good welcome for me back to Texas.

Millstream Pilsner

Posted by on 15 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

All I can really say about this beer is that, if you compare it to Budweiser, this beer rocks. But I’d say that about Coors, too, and I hate Coors.

There’s nothing offensive about this beer. There’s no bottled horribleness to make one’s face scrunch up and eyes water. I can’t say it tastes nasty.

But I can’t say it tastes good, either.

It’s watery, weak, limp, and boring. They claim it’s a simple Pilsner and they’re not lying about that. You can taste simple dry Pilsner malt and there’s an echo of bitterness from some hops that may have touched the brew at one point somewhere in its creation.

That’s about it.

I have no choice but to award this beer GroovyBrew’s first ever Boring Beer Award.

Full Sail Amber

Posted by on 13 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

What made me pick up this bottle is that, on the label, it says “Independent Employee-Owned.” Underneath it states you’re buying “12 fluid ounces of ridiculously tasty original amber ale concocted by our massive brewforce of 47.”

Brewforce? Is that a real word? I guess it is, now. I like it.

As it turns out, Full Sail Brewing is a brewforce to be reckoned with, as this beer is so tasty it was gone before I had a chance to finish the first draft of this review.

Upon opening, I was greeted with a very subtle sweet malt bouquet. It was so soft and delicate that it didn’t prepare me for the strength of the taste. I expected it to be watery.

OH NO, it is NOT.

The lightly carbonated amber brew splashing across my happy tongue was strong, edgy, and malty with brown sugar notes. The malt is the pervasive feature, supported by a sturdy hoppiness that somehow manages to be very present yet beneath the toasty malt. It’s robust without being overpowering, and as I stated above, it goes down quickly. This is one of those beers you have to force yourself to not guzzle.

Full Sail Amber is Delicious with a capital “D,” and it easily made it to my list of Holy Beer contenders, weighing in a solid 5.7 on Holy Grail Scale.

Windmill Wheat

Posted by on 11 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

This appears to be the Midwest’s answer to Mexico’s Corona Extra. But you’re supposed to drink this with a wedge of lemon instead of lime.

It needs something. The flavor is too subtle to really enjoy.

To me, a craft beer is about flavor. I mean, there are so many mass produced American beers on the market you can get for dirt cheap that feature zero flavor, that it’s a bit surprising to find a specialty beer touting the same thing.

“This beer is so light and wonderful we suggest you drink it with a lemon.”

Yes, well, excuse me, but I think I’ll pass on that.

Life is too short to spend time and effort trying to suck flavor out of a dull beer. While I love Millstone’s Schild Brau, I’d place this Windmill Wheat somewhere in the neighborhood of Coors.

With a lemon in it, of course.

Lunar Ale

Posted by on 09 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

With this, Boulevard Brewing has launched its first new year-round beer in ten years. Brewmaster Steven Pauwels designed this brown ale from scratch, going for a balance of flavorful yet easy drinking.

Steven, you did a good job.

I popped the top of this little gem of a beer, and was treated to a light aroma, mainly malt dominated by strong yeast scent.

The first sip rewarded me with a surprisingly bold flavor. Warm toasty malts crashed in like a big wave, with light and sweet hop notes riding in on the foamy crest. It has a tangy, almost citrus finish.

As the name implies, it’s a perfect beer to take with you whilst walking on a summer night under a big bright full moon.

It also is probably the perfect beer for a werewolf.


Millstream Schild Brau Amber

Posted by on 07 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews, Holy Beer Contenders

Being that I’m away from home on an extended assignment, I decided to take advantage of my travels and try some beers I normally wouldn’t see.

First up is this wonderful Millstream Schild Brau Amber.

With this beer, Millstream is doing something seriously right. Its light malty scent holds no warning of the avalanche of toasty chocolate malt flavor that is about to hit you. After the malt avalanche comes a light dusting of wispy hops, gentle and delightful.

Rarely have I tasted a beer in such perfect flavorful balance. It finishes warm and clean, leaving the palate begging for another.

It has a medium body and light carbonation; very drinkable.

And delicious!

It makes it easily as a Holy Beer contender, landing a solid 5.0 on the Holy Grail Scale.

Michelob Ultra Amber

Posted by on 05 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

As a continuing effort to keep my palate in reality-check, I’m spending some time with the more common American beers, and today it’s Michelob’s turn to try and surprise me.

So if Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser is the “king of beers,” and they “know of no other beer” that is better, how do they explain their own Michelob line of “premium” beers which, by definition, are plainly meant to be better?

I didn’t realize this was a “light” beer when I picked it up. All I saw was “ultra” and “amber.” In much smaller words underneath, in a color that blends well into the background of the label, there’s the proclamation of its lightness.

It has a pleasant enough bouquet, nice and heavy on the sweet malts. Well … maybe it will surprise me? Here’s hoping. I’m about to take my first sip.

It’s light, alright. Watery. But the initial wave of flavor is quite good, a kind of dusky malty foam with some hop notes floating on top of it. It fades quickly, though, leaving an unpleasant, watery bitterness tinged with a kind of metallic chemical tang.

There is a hole in the flavor of this beer. I have the distinct impression that something vital is missing from the mix. The more I drink, the less agreeable the experience.

It lacks the horrid Beachwood-aged disaster of Budweiser, but it does have a subtle repulsiveness all its own. After finishing the bottle I feel distinctly ill.

Budweiser “The King of Beers”

Posted by on 03 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Beer Reviews

My brother was about 14 years older than me and so by the time I was 5 he was in college and throwing college parties. My brother and all his friends were drinking this foaming stuff out of tall white cans and I wanted in on it. So I asked, and someone laughed and handed me one. A Bud.

Here I am sitting at a restaurant some 40 odd years later, and I just ordered one and the same. A genuine Budweiser.

I’m doing it as a kind of sacrifice. I need to reset my palate. After too many awesome, fantastic beers, I’ve decided I need a reality check. This is, after all, the self-proclaimed “King of Beers.”

I hated it when I was 5 years old. I hated it as a teenager. Will I hate it now?

Taking a sniff from the open bottle, there’s a very weak hoppy scent and not much else. First sip, I’m not surprised at all. After all these years I still recognize the distinctively weak, over-carbonated barley water masquerading as beer. The predominate taste is that of bitterness. A deep, low bitterness followed by a high light bitterness, finishing off with a nasty cold-cigar-butt aftertaste.

In my opinion, it tastes like they mixed a tiny bit of really cheap vodka with water, then stirred in dirty straw and maybe a bit of lawn clippings, and let it sit in a refrigerator for a few weeks.

I’m not sure what is worse, though, the beer itself or the complete bullshit they print on their label: “This is the famous Budweiser beer. We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age. Our exclusive Beachwood Aging produces a taste, a smoothness and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.”

What in the world are they smoking? I mean, where do I start? Even if it really does cost more to brew than any other beer in the world — which I challenge — how do they justify stating it’s the acme of beers when they themselves brew beers they market as even better?

Budweiser sucks. That’s my opinion. It’s the crappiest beer I have ever had, as bad now as it was 40 years ago.