Saturday, July 14, 2012

034. Simpler Times Lager

For those of you who ain't from around here, The Woodlands is an upscale, Master Planning Community northwest of Houston. It's a bit snooty: no visible power or communication lines, no signs sticking above the treeline, and so on. It's a very nice place and I work there occasionally (I ain't saying I live in The Hood, but NW Houston is typical suburbia). But I work up there about twice a week, so after I'm done "taking what they're giving 'cause I'm working for a living," I poke around some of the stores up there to see what I can find.

There's a new place to poke around: Trader Joe's. I'm told by a cousin that they're a big deal in California. Nice to know -- they're practically unheard of hereabouts. I won't comment much on their food (I bought a chicken wrap and a refrigerated meal of Tandoori Chicken -- both of which were very good, but their organic 2% milk was very mediocre when compared to Borden's), but I will say that had a decent beer selection. Not great (the HEB grocery store across the street blows them out of the water with variety and price), but decent. They did have one or two brews that I hadn't seen before.

Strange Brew
One of the strange brew's I picked up was an old-fashioned looking can called Simper Times Lager. This is made by Minhas Craft Brewery in Wisconsin (they also have a location in Calgary). The can has a nice old fashioned look to it, so I grabbed a six pack and tossed it in my trusty beer fridge.

I popped a top last night and took a whiff. I was almost assaulted by the sweet smell that came out of the can. A medium pour was yielding almost no head, so I got really aggressive (poured it straight into the glass, not using the sides at all) for the last third of the can -- that finally coaxed the head and aromas out.

Considering that this has a hefty Alcohol By Volume rating of 6.2%, I was expecting the hops to show up with more aggression than they did. Instead, they were hiding behind the malt and creamy flavors like frightened schoolgirls. There was a surprising taste mixed in with the sweetness, and after a few sips I realized that it reminded me of Cream Soda. So much so, in fact, that several times I looked at the can to see if I had mistakenly picked up a shandy or some sort of cream soda flavored malt beverage.

Nope. They said this was beer... and so it. Just not a very good one.  I really tried to give this a fair shake, letting it warm up a bit to see if the hops might crawl out from under their covers and quit hiding from the sugary bogyman dominating the glass, but they never put in an appearance.

All in all, this was one of the most disappointing beers I've had in a long time -- it actually broke the success streak I'd been having lately exploring a variety of summer brews (I've found a lot that I'll be writing up soon). I might even do a Summer Brew Round Up at the end of the season.

I really hate writing bad reviews -- not because I'm a sweet guy, but because I prefer directing people to things that are good, rather than warning them away from things that are mediocre or bad. In this case, though, I've got no choice. Although I'm sure there are a few people out there who might like this, I'm definitely not one of them.

However, I am going to take the remaining five cans to a party tonight at my friends Len's & Crystal's house and see if anyone there likes it. I'm particularly interested in finding out if any of the women there will give it a taste. Most of them are wine drinkers, so perhaps they will enjoy the sweetness? We'll see, and I'll keep you posted!

Party People Poo-Poo New Brew
I handed out tasting cups to a few of my
fellow party people to see what they thought of it.

MONDAY UPDATE: I brought this to the party and the guests had already gone through their first bottle of wine; it was a sweet Moscato. The mood was light and their taste buds were primed for sweetness when I took out a can of Simpler Times and poured a bunch of tasting cups for everyone. I just told them that this was a beer I didn't much care for, but I thought that wine drinkers might enjoy its sweetness. They were all game, and here's what they said.

Heather: Drinks beer sometimes, but not often. She was very surprised at how sweet this was and said it tasted weak. Needless to say, she was flabbergasted when I told her the alcohol content was 6.2%. She said she would drink it again (and finished her cup), but would "rather just drink Bud than this." I asked her if she thought the taste reminded her of something and she said yes, but she couldn't place it. When I suggested Cream Soda, her eyes lit up and she fervently agreed that it did remind her of that.

Kim: Doesn't like beer, but said this wasn't too bad. She said it was drinkable, but didn't actually finish her cup of 2-3 ounces. She heard me and Heather talking about the ABV and, when we explained that normal beers usually have between 5% - 5.5%, she was also surprised at how hearty this was.

Len: Really doesn't like beer and took only about two sips before declaring it "pretty bad" and handing the cup back to me. He did mention that it was surprisingly sweet and unlike any beer he'd had before.

I don't recall if Crystal took a sip or not, but I do recall that my wife just made a funny face when she sniffed it (she never drinks beer and seldom drinks wine, but will indulge in a frozen Margarita or frozen Daiquri every now and then).

Final Thoughts from the Party People: They didn't care for it, but the wine drinkers didn't dislike it as much as I did.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: American Lager
Color: Cloudy Yellow
Aroma: Super Sweet
Hops: Very understated
Malt: Hiding behind the sugar
Head: White, thin but can be obtained with an aggressive pour
Lace: Okay
Carbonation: Medium/Heavy
Temprature Sweet Spot: I couldn't find one
ABV: 6.2%
My Rating: 2 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:
The guys over at Beer Advocate seemed to be split on this: some liked it, but most hated it. Good or bad, at least it got people talking:

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