Saturday, August 25, 2012

040. Shiner Prickly Pear

I was visiting my wife's cousin last weekend and found a surprise in her refrigerator: A new variety of Shiner beer that I had never seen before: Shiner Ryes & Shine. It was an interesting brew and I'm definitely going to write more about it in the near future. What caught my eye was the statement at the bottom of the bottle's label: Brewer's Pride Craft Brew No. 2.

What the heck? I had missed No. 1? No way, I thought. Unfortunately, the universe replied, "Way..."

The beer came as part of a Family Reunion six pack. This is what Shiner calls its sampler pack. It's also the only place I know to regularly get their Kosmos beer. So when I was at Wal-Mart in Tomball, Texas tonight, I decided to look for a Family Reunion pack so I could pick up a bottle of Ryes & Shine for this week's review.

Alas, I was to be denied... and rewarded. They didn't have Craft Brew No. 2, but they did have Craft Brew No. 3: Shiner Prickly Pear.

I don't only drink beer...
A pretty good fruit beer.
Although I probably am a beer snob, that's not all I drink. I love a good margarita with my Tex-Mex food, and seldom turn down a glass of red wine (whites okay, but I prefer more hearty flavors). I've even spent many a night in the desert drinking wine coolers and there was that one night I helped down a pitcher of cosmopolitans during that Sex & The City marathon (the less said of that the better). So, even though I do quaff the occasional fruity beverage, I'm almost never a fan of fruit infused or flavored beers.In fact, to this day I still have nightmares about the Belgian Cherry Ale I drank one night back in college (shudder).

So, to be fair, I wasn't expecting much from this beer when I popped the top of the 12 oz. bottle and got a super-strong noseful of fruity aroma. To be honest, it smelled more like Kool-Aid than prickly pear. Now, even though I'm from El Paso and have eaten more than my fair share of prickly pear (even picked some fresh off the plant, but usually I ate it in candy or preserves), I'm not all that familiar with the different types of prickly pear, nor am I a big fan. As it's presented here, I would say that the flavor of prickly pear in this beer is a cross between a peach and a sweet grapefruit. It's pleasant with hints of citrus tartness.

Thinking now about my prejudices toward this beer, I'm actually surprised that I'm giving it such high marks. I think that, as far as fruit beers go, this one is really good.

The aroma was strong and a medium pour delivered a very lackluster head (as you can clearly see in my photo): Barely one finger and that faded pretty fast. I added a second bottle to the mug and gave it an aggressive pour (right into the middle of the mug) and actually did generate a healthy caramel-colored head of almost three fingers. But this faded very quickly, leaving more lace than I had expected... it hung around a decent amount of time but soon vanished without a trace.

The carbonation was extremely light, but the color was a wonderful crystal-clear honey color -- a delicate golden brown that was very inviting. The color was a pleasant surprise -- I guess I was expecting something with a pink hue, to be honest.

The flavor was crisp and fruity sweet, especially in my early sips when it was ice cold. The fruit stole the show, dominating the hops and malt in a very unpleasant way, making it seem very one-note. As it warmed, though, the hops began to come through and tame the dominant fruit and helped it find some measure of balance. As it warmed above 50 degrees, I was finally able to taste the hops, malt and it developed a good mouthfeel that I enjoyed.

From the Label: This small batch brew is the third our Limited Edition Brewer’s Pride Craft Brew Series. A combination of Citra and U.S. Golding hops gives this refreshing lager its citrus flavor and floral aroma. The brew’s signature tartness comes from the fruit of the prickly pear, a cactus native to our brewery’s landscape that’s hearty, rugged and unmistakably unique —qualities we surely appreciate.

Final Thoughts
I didn't eat food with this beer, so I'm simply speculating here, but I think this would be a good match with a sweet pork barbecue. This is one of the better fruit beers I've tasted (I would expect nothing else from the Little Brewery in Shiner), but I'm not a fan of them and this one didn't win me over to the cause. It's kind of like me and oatmeal cookies. To me, the best oatmeal cookie on planet earth would probably still come in second to an average chocolate chip cookie. It's just a matter of preference.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:

Type: Fruit Infused Beer
Color: Crisp, clear light brown
Aroma: Fruity -- almost like Kool-Aid with an undercurrent of hops
Hops: Cowering in fear beneath the fruit
Malt: Slightly bready undertaste
Head: Light brown, quickly fades
Lace: Medium
Carbonation: Light
Temprature Sweet Spot: Fruity: Below 45; for more hops bitterness drink at above 50
ABV: 4.9%
My Rating: 6 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:

The Beer Advocate guys were pretty positive about this beer, but all agreed that the fruit was so strong that it dominated the beer. After that, it was simply a matter of whether they liked being dominated in this way:

Another good review:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

039. Adelbert's Naked Nun Ale

I won't lie -- I bought it because of the name. I mean, who could resist a simple little bottle bearing the name Nake Nun Ale brewed with spices? There's just something so indecently wicked about the name that I just had to give it a shot (or in this case, a wine glass, as my other glass needed to be washed and I was feeling lazy tonight).

If I recall correctly, I picked this single bottle up at the downtown Spec's Liquor here in Houston about a month ago. I think I paid about $3 for it, but it could have been as much as $4. But, considering how bad my memory is these days, it also could have been as low as $2. Not bad for a craft brewery just a few hundred miles up the road from me (they're in Texas state capital, Austin).

Taste free association
A spicy concoction brewed in Austin.
Spicy. Definitely pepper. Probably coriander. Yeasty. Citrus -- possibly lemon (but maybe the light color is influencing me) or maybe orange? Tart on the tongue. Hops or something else? Fourth deep sip gave me a "pucker" reaction -- but not in a bad way. Kinds of reminds me of a citrusy malt beverage "wine cooler," but with strong undercurrents of ale.

This is one of the cloudiest ales I've ever had. I honestly cannot see light through it -- just a hazy glow like a tequila sunrise gone wrong. Fortunately, the taste is crisper than the appearance, which actually took on the look of bathwater after bathing a muddy and adventurous 5-year-old -- kinda like Dennis the Menace after a day of ripping up Mr. Wilson's flowerbeds.

From the Label:
Named to mark the time in Colombia Del was robbed including his clothes and underwear while hiking down from the Cerro de Monserrate. After he alerted some local Nuns while hiding behind some sheep, they were kind enough to give him a blanket and bus fare to get home.
Refreshing, soft, and well balanced ale with hints of orange peel and coriander. Pair with light foods such as mussels, salmon, and chicken.

Although the label is very simple (as you can see from the photo), it has some additional info that would be nice to find on other craft beers: It has the brewed on date. In this case, it was bottled 03/02/12 Batch 001 Bottle #0693. I would love seeing this info on other bottles, particularly the date. It's just a little more info, but the sort of thing that means a lot when I'm paying about $3-$4 a bottle -- and a "stubby" bottle, at that. After last week's four-pack of 1 pint 9 oz. cans, this week's shorty of only 11 ounces seems a bit fey by comparison. Still, to be fair, this isn't the sort of beer you want to chug-a-lug. I suspect, as it says on the label, that this pairs well with lighter foods. On the other hand, I'd love to taste this next to a spicy taco and see what happens.

One final thought: This was an ale of subtle nuances. At colder temps (around 34 - 38) the yeast was stronger, but so were the spices. In the mid 40s I found it to be refreshing but it seemed not quite right. Once we got nearer 50 degrees, though, the spices, hops and other flavors seemed to come into their own and quit jostling for attention and fell into step and formed a nice cadence as it marched down my throat. HOWEVER (note the all caps), although I liked what the flavors did when it got warmer, there was a nice smoothness when I drank it colder. Although I preferred the slightly warmer fare, I strongly suggest you try it colder and then let it warm up so you can find your own sweet spot.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:

Type: Belgian Wit Ale
Color: Cloudy dishwater yellow/brown
Aroma: Strong-n-spicy
Hops: Medium strength with nice floral notes
Malt: Okay, but overpowered by the yeast
Head: Very thick and white
Lace: Almost none
Carbonation: Heavy
Temprature Sweet Spot: Above 48 degrees
ABV: 5.8%
My Summer Rating: 7 out of 10
My Normal Rating: 6 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:

The Beer Advocate guys were very positive about this Texas brew, giving it generally solid marks all around:
BTW: I added a shorter review of this beer over at that site. Click on the link above for another, slightly different set of rating criteria.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

038. Konig Pilsner

In the past I've often told a joke that is sure to yield at least a few chuckles from people (and a few hearty guffaws from military-minded guys): "I'm of German-Irish decent, so sometimes I get the almost-irresistible urge to invade a country and take their beer."

A four-pack of imported goodness.
A slight exaggeration, but most true. I am of German and Irish decent and I do enjoy trying foreign beers, particularly the German and Irish varieties. For some reason I just expect more from them. And they usually don't let me down.

Unfortunately, that's not the case with this week's offering: König Pilsener (or as we say here stateside, Konig Pilsner). Now don't get me wrong, this is a pretty good beer for a pilsner, but I was just expecting more because it comes from a really reputable brewery in Germany that was established in 1516 (at least that's what I think the German can is telling me).

A Man And A Can
I'd had a hard week and I wanted to kick back with more than one beer tonight while I caught up on the second season of The Walking Dead, so I opened the 4-pack and got out a can. It was the light, thin aluminium that you would expect from an import (gotta save moolah on shipping, you know). Opening the can didn't release much aroma so I wound up taking my first good sniff from the glass (you know the one -- it's in the photo). And then I took another sniff... and another...

To be honest, I didn't find much of an aroma. I actually had to let the beer breath a little in order to get the faint hint of hops, malt and a tantalizing hint of citrus.

This is a good, solid pilsner, but it's unremarkable. I think I picked this up in The Woodlands (a nearby upscale Master Community), but I don't recall for sure. Or I could have gotten it downtown at Spec's Liquor.  I recall paying under $10 for a 4-pack of tall cans: 1 pint 9 ounces (or 500 ml for you Euro types). It was tightly wrapped in plastic (kind of reminded me of Laura Palmer).

Whatever the case, it was one of the clearest yellows of any beer I've ever seen. (UPDATE: After doing some post-review reading, I read that several people described this as "straw colored." That's a pretty interesting description that does an admirable job of evoking the high-altitude florals that are a subtle undercurrent in the aroma and taste of this beer.

The taste, you see, was very understated. It was clear and crisp -- without a doubt it's one of the crispest beers I've had in ages. There was also a clarity to the flavor; the slightly grassy hops were in perfect balance with the pleasantly robust malts. I think the individual flavors were good, but there was so much harmony that no single note rose above and laid claim to this beer. In short, it was pleasant and unremarkable.

Now, I don't want to make this a bad thing. I really don't have anything bad to say about this beer. Aroma, color, lace... everything is good. But there's nothing great. If this beer were in the German army, he'd make it to Captain in a respectable amount of time but never have hope of advancing in rank.

This is just a good pilsner that I would enjoy drinking in the summer. Something I wouldn't ever consider refusing, but nothing I'd ever go out of my way to order. It's just average.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:

Type: Pilsner
Color: Clear yellow
Aroma: Almost none - a tease of floral hops and a rumor of citrus
Hops: Hiding like a girly-man
Malt: I think it's hiding with the hops, but in balance with the hops
Head: White, light and leaves quickly
Lace: Surprising good considering the alcohol content
Carbonation: Light
Temprature Sweet Spot: Serve it cold (under 40 degrees)
Temperature Bitter Spot: Let it warm above 55 degrees and you'll get more hops
ABV: 4.9%
My Rating: 5 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:
It looks like the fine fellas over at seem to agree with me. Some guys say this is just what a pilsner should be, but others don't really get it. In short, the average reviews come out dead-set in the middle like I did. Not bad at all, but not great in any single way. All in all, they seem to think it's just good.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

037. Karbach Sympathy For The Lager

One of the great things about living in the fourth largest city in the United States is that there's a lot of stuff to do here. Festivals, museums, the Rodeo... and of course, there are several micro and craft breweries in town or nearby. When the weather cools down, I'm going to do a few tours and -- of course -- I'll share the photos and fun with you.

In the meantime, though, it's just too danged hot to go moseying around town. Which is why I'm kicking back right now with a tall mug of a new (to me, at least) Houstonian beer: Karbach Brewing Co.'s Sympathy for the Lager.

As you know (and has become apparent to me), my tastes tend to run lighter when it's warmer (and right now it's just downright hot). That's why I'm happy to say that this local lager doesn't lag in delivering light libations. In other (non-alliterative) words: This stuff ain't too shabby.

Pour me another one (and another)...
As you can see from the photo, I broke out the big mug tonight. I poured one 12-ounce can (yup, it's sold in aluminum, which I guess makes it A-OK for your cooler to reach the beach) into the mug and it looked kinda empty... so I poured in another can. Why not? I'm staying home tonight.

The aroma from the can was mostly malt, but when I took another sniff from the mug I got a faint whiff of hops. The first thing I noticed was the color: this is very brown and simple looking. There's something solid and workmanlike about the color. It just looks like BEER.  I do see a hint of yellow in it, which helps make it more inviting.

The head came alive under a moderately aggressive pour; it was a very thick white that reminded me of a fresh muffin. The muffin notion was further advanced by the hint of yeast that sat atop the hops. But it was definitely the sweet malt that carried the day.

The 4.9% alcohol content and lighter, slightly sweet taste (yeah, there are some hops hiding there, but they're not as harsh as the bitch-slapping kind loved by the hops whores) definitely make this something I can enjoy on these hot Summer Nights.

WHERE TO BUY: I bought this at a Kroger's in NW Houston for $7.99 a six-pack.

Kroger's had a nice selection of
Karbach Beers

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover 
(but DO judge a beer by its can)
45's were cool. The very first one I ever bought
was Bonnie Tyler's "It's a Heartache."
I really like the packaging on this can, even though it's just three colors: black & white & red (but not all over). Its got a simple classic design of alternating red and "open" areas that let the can's silver show through: the name appears in a big black disc that is reminiscent of an old vinyl record (it's got a hole in the middle of the black disc).

There is also a graphic element on the side of the can that is instantly familiar to anyone of a certain age that still recalls 45 RPM records. Yup, this is "old school" stuff to you young'uns. That graphic element is the adapter used to play 45's on your regular stereo record player.

All this music reference is apropriate, of course, because the brew's name is a riff on the uber-classic Rolling Stone's song, Sympathy for the Devil. And this killer can even has a really good parody of the song's lyrics on its side.

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a beer of damn fine taste
I've been around for a long, long time
Many brewers have ruined my name

I've watched now for several decades
As my character has been disgraced
But now the boys down on Karbach Street
Have gone and made me first rate

Full of fine malt and German hops
My taste is both clean and bold
And though my flavor always stands up
I'm best when enjoyed cold

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Show some sympathy
Enjoy my taste

This is a nice beer from a local brewery (heck, from any brewery) and I would definitely drink this any time the heat gets so hot that the Devil himself would feel at home.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:

Type: Lager
Color: Cloudy yellow/brown
Aroma: Mostly malt
Hops: Understated
Malt: Full bodied, nice presence in the mouth
Head: Thick like a white muffin
Lace: Medium/Heavy
Carbonation: Medium/Heavy
Temprature Sweet Spot: Drink cold (38-40 degrees)
ABV: 4.9%
My Summer Rating: 7 out of 10
My Normal Rating: 6 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:

The Rate Beer guys seemed to detect more pepper than I did. Maybe it's released at a greater temperature? I dunno: