Monday, June 30, 2014

061. Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale

I first tried this beer about two weeks ago and very quickly drank 5 out of 6 bottles, saving the last one for my review. I also spent that time looking for another six pack -- and failed. For whatever reason (out of stock, out of season, just don't care enough brands), I couldn't find another six pack of Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale.

Which is odd, considering their Website reports that this is available year round:  I don't care what their site says, though, I'm pretty darned sure this is a summer seasonal.

Nevertheless, the reason I checked out about six stores for it was not because it's a super amazing beer, but it just a really solid red ale with a hint of citrus and just a few nice notes of hops to make it a very pleasing summer beer that won't weigh you down.

"Farmhouse Ales were brewed for the diligent farmhands who drew the short straw and had to work the arduous harvest. Our brewmaster’s expression blends the spiciness of a Farmhouse Ale with the tartness of a Flanders Red for a remarkably refreshing finish."
-- From the label (and their Website)

Pour & Nose
The pour was, honestly, unremarkable. Two fingers of white head that was washed away by a quick rise of bubbles. I thought this was going to be an aggressively carbonated beer, but that's not the case. The bubbles came and went quickly, leaving almost no trace of lace. The color was nice, though: a crisp, clear copper with just the right color for something daring to call itself a "red ale."

The nose was even better. Spices, citrus (I'd say pepper and hibiscus) with subtle hops notes. Pleasing, but not attention grabbing. Still, it has a nice, earthy honesty that I found refreshing.

Savor the Flavor
I'm not a big fan of Flemish sours, but this one has just enough bitterness from the hops and just a hint of sweet from the spices, citrus and malt to make this a very pleasing drink for these dragon's breath days of summer. I think what appeals to me is the crispness. There's something about it that reminds me of biting into a crisp, really bitter Granny Smith apple. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that this has any sort of apple flavor or any underlying apple sweetness. It's just that this combo reminds me of the experience of biting into a really bitter apple.

And I like it.

Closing Thoughts
Not bad, not good. A bit above average, which is why I didn't give it a 5 rating. The color and light taste seem perfect for summer by the pool or chilling with friends. It's not something I can imagine taking up permanent residence in my beer fridge, but it wouldn't be unwelcome if I found it in a cooler at a barbecue. Of course, I would let it warm up significantly before drinking it.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Red Ale
Color: Clearly Copper
Aroma: Citrus, hibiscus, pepper, hint of hops
Hops: Mild, but aromatic
Malt: Subtle, but it does its job in the chorus supporting the main performers
Head: White but leaves the party early
Lace: Almost none
Bitterness: Nicely sour
Carbonation: Heavy, but dissipates quickly
Mouthfeel:  Crisp, but with an odd bready quality as you near the bottom of the bottle
Temeprature Sweet Spot: N/A (I liked it cold and warmer, so 36-56 degrees)
ABV: 5.8%
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Summer fun in the sun rating: 9

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at hated this. They were really bitchy about the sourness and just seemed pissed that it wasn't a stronger version of some other type of beer. This is one of the only times I've found their reviews to be so out of synch with mine that they are utterly useless to me.

For more about Farmhouse Ales in general, check out this page over at

Friday, June 13, 2014

060. Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale

Summer is here -- at least in temperature and humidity, if not in date. Dog walking is now and after midnight activity. And even then the humidity can be oppressive. To shake off these early summertime blues, sometimes I like to come home and pop the top on a nice cold one. And the beer in this bottle is a lot lighter in color than what I prefer in the dark nights of winter.
Tonight's lucky bottle is from the Goose Island Beer Company.

I'll be honest, I am not be a fan of the politics that have seeped out of Chicago, but I am a fan of this brewery. I've had a couple of their beers that I have enjoyed quite a bit. This one is no different, in that regard: 312 Urban Pale Ale is a solid beer that has the right mix of flavor and crispness that I look for in a summer beer.

From Popped Top to Glass
The beer has almost no aroma when cold, but when allowed to warm up a bit, floral notes and citrus become apparent. There's a hint of sweetness hiding under the mountain hops aroma... but that sweetness doesn't make it into the glass itself.

Colorwise, this is an unusual beer. In one light, it looked rather dull and almost yellow. But, when photographed against a dark cloth, suddenly it turned into a pleasing golden color with hints of copper. The Goose Island web site lists the color as "Marigold," but I don't agree with that. It's really just a pleasing golden color.

Poured with a gentle slope and care into the glass, it generated a heady two-finger layer of foam that was a bright white. Just judging this beer by its looks, this brew looked like it had a lot to offer. That did not immediately translate into the glass. My first taste left me with the impression that this is a nice beer -- but almost completely unremarkable.  In fact, if this review were based on a 2-3 ounce sample, I would have given it a 5 out of 10.

But, being mindful of my responsibility to you, the reader, I didn't stop at just a few sips. I kept on drinking the bottle, just to make sure I was being thorough. After all, I do need to maintain some levels of journalistic integrity, don't I? So, braving on, I began to detect more subtle notes in the beer that I found both surprising and pleasing.

As I said, there are floral and citrus notes in the nose and the body. The light carbonation is pleasing, but it and the head seemed to fade faster than I expected. It did leave a lot of lace in the glass, however. And who doesn't like lace-lined beer glasses?

"We are from the city that invented the skyscraper. We constructed our Urban Pale Ale on a balanced malt backbone, so the citrus hop aroma and crisp flavor can stand tall."
--From their Website,
The mouthfeel is good -- not overly dry or sweet. As the beer warmed, the malt did seem to release more sweetness, but on the whole, this beer was a little bitter... but in a good, citrus way, not in an overly hopped or way.

Some Like it Hot  -- Or at least warm...
I found the bitterness to be very strong when I tasted it cold. Under 40 degrees, this is an almost disagreeable beer. But when allowed to thaw out a bit, it gets downright pleasant around 57-60 degrees. This is a good beer, but I don't think it's going to come home again this summer... or next. Oh, I wouldn't snub it at a party, and I might actually recommend it to good ole Cousin Josh as something he might like. He tends to like beers with strong hops or more bitter flavors. I think this might be the sort of thing he'll enjoy, so I'll save a few bottles for him and see what he thinks of it.  I'll let you know what he thinks.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Pale Ale
Color: Gold with whispers of copper
Aroma: Citrus and mountain hops
Hops: Aromatic mountain hops with hints of floral
Malt: Solid and dependable, but it's working in the chorus, not taking the lead
Head: Super white and fluffy -- two fingers thick
Lace: Heavy -- more impressive than I was expecting
Carbonation: Light
Mouthfeel:  Crisp, hints of citrus, not too much alcohol
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 57-60 degrees
ABV: 5.4%
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Worth a sip when the heat is on

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at did not, for the most part, like this beer. Most of the comments focused on the bitterness and more than one guy mentioned that it looked thin and had a poor head. I'm betting these guys tried to drink it cold. At