Beer and Pavement

Session #57 – Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer

Posted in Beer, The Session, Travelog by SM on November 4, 2011

This month’s session is “Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer” which is not the sort of thing budding beer bloggers want to share. We have reps to protect. However, if anything, it should demonstrate that even I will stoop to a lesser beer out of sheer pleasure and not just necessity. I’ll skip the opportunity to tell you about an embarrassing drunken escapade. There are just too many of those to share. Instead, I’ll stick with the guilty pleasure angle.

This past summer, my wife and I traveled to Spain, spending much of our time with a close friend. Spain is not known for great beers, but I had a lot of fun searching out the best. There were fresh pilsners to hold me over and even a few interesting craft finds. Overall, I can’t complain about the beer I had, but there is one beer choice I made on several occassions that I’m not completely proud of.

As most beer nerds do, I checked out the tap handles at every bar, cafe, and restaurant we passed. While in Barcelona, we would often hang out at the cafe just below the apartment we were renting. Like most, smaller establishments, they had two beers on tap from the same brewery: Damm. One tap was reserved for the brewery’s flagship beer, Estrella Damm, while the other was reserved for my new guilty pleasure, Damm Lemon.

Yes. The beer geek who goes for 10% imperial stouts and DIPA’s measuring close to 100 IBU’s chose a shandy. The Damm Lemon (or “damn lemon” as it became known in our circle) was comprised of six parts cervaza to four parts lemon. It was the weekest of session beers in that it was low in alcohol (3.1%) and even lower on anything resembling beer.

My first clue should have been when I finally decided to order a damn lemon. First of all, my Spanish is terrible. I try to piece together what to say, usually pronouncing everything with a French accent. So, I think I asked for a “cervatha de la lemón.” I don’t know whether the girl laughed at my lame attempt at ordering in Spanish or the fact that I was ordering a shandy. Somehow, I suspect both. She corrected me and told me it’s called a “lata” or something that sounded like that. I drank two and recieved the same odd look both times. The second time around made me think that I was choosing a girly drink. Normally, this doesn’t bother me, but my inner-12-year-old cringed at the thought. Although, in retrospect, it may have been more of a case of “Why is this old guy drinking a kid’s beer?”

When our friend arrived in Barcelona, I introduced him to Damm Lemon and he loved it. we made a pact to purchase a sixer one night for dinner. The agreement was realized one evening after a long day of sight-seeing, tapas, and plenty of drinking. We were already a little buzzed. So, some 3% lemonade beer wasn’t going to hurt. We dutifully finished the entire sixer despite tipsiness to start with and what I remember to be a rather decadent dinner of various things soaked in olive oil, bread, lots of pork products, and a boatload of cheese.

I tasted many good things during my trip to Spain, but none could be quite equal the guilty pleasure Damm Lemon turned out to be. We even tried ham-flavored potato chips and that doesn’t seem as guilt-inducing as a shandy. Still, I don’t regret a thing and would likely do it again.

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In Defense of BrewDog

Posted in Beer, Travelog by SM on June 22, 2011

One of the most amazing achievements of the American craft beer scene is its overwhelming influence on foreign brewers, particularly those from lands with their own brewing traditions. The movement toward traditional brewing techniques with “extreme” ingredients has greatly influenced craft beer all around the world. One such brewery who has taken what American breweries have done and run with it is Scotland’s BrewDog.

Some like to criticize BrewDog for being putting more hype than hops in their beers. The attitude displayed in their copy and graphic design suggest a similar arrogance found in that of Stone but without the great product to back it up. BrewDog often goes for the gimmick with their insanely high ABV beers like Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32%), Sink the Bismark (41%), or The End of History (55%). There’s also the insanely low ABV brew Nanny State that comes in at a whopping 1.1% ABV. Such stunts cause the skeptical beer nerd to be…well…skeptical.

While the perceived gimmicks above don’t bother me, the fact that I had tried few BrewDog beers that I actually liked said more about the brewery than any marketing strategies. The Tate Modern Saison was nice. Their collaboration with Stone was interesting but not mind-blowingly good. And the IPA’s and stouts I had were okay, I guess. In my opinion, BrewDog did very little to earn my beer money.

Then, I had their collaboration with Mikkeller, the I Beat U. I’m a sucker for insanely hoppy, American craft-style IPA’s and DIPA’s. This one certainly did the trick. I figured that maybe BrewDog had figured out how to brew a proper American-style IPA or that, at the very least, Mikkeller had a positive influence on the brewers from Scotland. I was intrigued enough to keep an eye open for BrewDog’s beers. However, due to some changes in distribution, BrewDog is no longer available here in Missouri.

Enter my trip to Spain.

I have more to say about the trip and the beer there, but BrewDog deserves their own post, review. After several fruitless searches for good beer bars and stores, I finally discovered a gourmet food store on the Rambla de Catalunya in Barcelona. While there were many interesting beers from which to choose, I had to think strategically. My day pack didn’t allow much room for beer (nor did my back want to lug that much extra weight). Plus, we were leaving the next day for Granada. Carrying a load of beer on a plane with no checked luggage did not appeal to me. So, I went with six 11.2 oz BrewDog beers. Let’s review…

IPA Is Dead Sorachi Ace and Citra
Both IPA’s were single-hopped with identical malt profiles, 7.5% ABV, and 75 IBU’s. The idea was to single out popular hop varieties in order to discover the virtues of each. Mikkeller has done the same, but rarely have their versions been as intense as these two beers. First, I tried the Sorachi Ace, if you recall, the centerpiece hop in my own New Slang Saison. The flavor and aroma were huge on this one, but Sorachi Ace really should be used sparingly or in combination with other hops. The hop at 75 IBU’s just comes off like lemon-scented cleaning supplies. Still, it was an interesting experience as I watched The Simpsons dubbed in German on the airport hotel TV.

Next came the Citra-hopped beer. Wow. I can see why this hop is quickly replacing Simcoe as the hop-du-jour among professional and amateur brewers alike. It’s so citrusy and not harsh at all. Excellent beer.

Hardcore IPA
Before heading out for the evening, a friend and I decided to break open this DIPA. Hoppy with the proper malt backbone to balance…This was nothing like any BrewDog IPA/DIPA I had consumed previously. Aside from the single-hop beers, this beer easily proves BrewDog’s worthiness among American craft beers.

Bitch Please, Paradox, and Tokyo
After the Hardcore IPA, we had a dinner with friends in their mountain-side village home. I brought these beers as a contribution to the meal. We saved them for after dinner, which was the right thing to do. I opted to start with the Bitch Please barley wine, a collaboration with Three Floyds. Fucking A. I figured the barley wine wouldn’t stand up after the two big imperial stouts, but that was a silly thing about which to worry. It was the peatiest thing I’ve had not in a Scotch bottle. Unreal how peaty this beer was. Luckily, I was sharing.

Second was the Paradox…oak, bourbon, molasses…This was the quintessential Americanized imperial stout for which we all crave. This beer came correct and stood up to the peat in the previous beer. At this point, I was clearly sold on the BrewDog’s legitimacy, but the ability to brew an imperial stout such as this one cinched it.

Finally, we opened and slowly sipped on Tokyo. I am a huge fan of Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and this beer is its equivalent. Sweet, syrupy, black coffee, and bourbon…Oh, and tons and tons of booze. They aren’t joking when they claim this beer to be 18% ABV. It kicked our ass for good, but it was totally worth it.

After trying these six beers while on holiday, I am a huge BrewDog fan and believe in their ability to brew big beers. I know that between their hype machine and forays into mediocre brewing, they have lost some of you. However, it’s never too late to come back and try BrewDog again. Now, if only they shipped to Missouri…

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Still In Spain, Still Alive

Posted in Beer, Travelog by SM on June 9, 2011

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We’re still here and I’m making due. Trust me, the selection above is not what I’ve typically had here with my tapas. Still, it’s been interesting. I’ll get back to full-on blogging within a week.

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