Posts Tagged ‘California beers’

A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

It’s confession time. I’ve been unfaithful. For the longest time, I was fast and enduring to the sweet, sweet malt, and eschewed the bitter hop. But this little blonde  enticed me with her sluttiness, and having tasted her delights, I was drunk with pleasure. I admit to some sybaritic desire, because after the first sipped kisses, I wanted to possess her.

It began in the restaurant, before the bar was open. Daily, I’d see the display of fine wines, and jealous of them, plucked this spunky gal from the nearest store, a single bottle to grace the shelves. Passing her daily, I lusted for that golden delight, and finally she drew me in to her web.

Ooops. Slipped into old male thinking there for a wild moment. Enough of the fantasy, now for the real deal. This is a beautiful beer, seriously. It would have to be to draw me away from my usual malty lusts – it’s a pale amber with a excellent crowning head that holds well, laces the glass with pretty silk stockingtops of lace (here we  go again); a true delight to the eye.

The nose is gently hoppy and quite fruity, with clear notes of tangerine and backed with a bready wheatiness. The little hop bitterness balances a sweet savour of herb bread, and the light, slightly spicy citrus carries through to a dry finish that is clean and fresh after the maltiness. Each draft, sip or quaff, reveals more.

It’s a great food beer, good with sturdy salads and light to moderately flavoured dishes. I’d pick it as a good introduction to food pairing with lightly spiced meats and cheeses. There’s little to fault, it’s a superbly balanced pale wheat brew that continually surprises. As I find with so many brews, the character changes as the beer warms. In this case, it seriously glows, becomes more floral and aromatic. Care is needed though, because at some point it loses that essential freshness. After all, it’s a hoppy Lagunitas ale, and deserves to be on the chillier end, around 50 at the top end.

Will I have it again? Without hesitation. A delightful warm-weather beer that I’m certain will appeal to a wide variety of palates.

Sudwerk Märzen

Sudwerks MarzenToday is Mother’s Day. I’m sitting in a friend’s front garden in the Capay Valley, facing the very spot where I was married to Christine on the first of May four years ago. Just as on that Beltane there’s a clear sky, fragrant roses and honeysuckle. There’s still an olive tree shading the spot where Sam, the minister, stood as he blessed our union. There’s still the pretty dappled shade over the lawn, where Christine is sitting, painting the scene.

For myself, I am sitting in the porch drinking to the memory of my mother, and I’m doing it with a beer from my new home town of Davis, California.It’s a Märzen from the Sudwerk microbrewery in Davis, California.

Now your Märzen is traditionally drunk in the summer, having been stored in chilly caves and shaded by horse-chestnuts. Thus spake Wikipedia. In Germany, the last opportunity to drink these darker lagers was at the Oktoberfest, but nowadays we can drink practically anything at any time. The seasonal variations in beers tend to be a thing of long ago, with the possible exception of the really rich, dark Christmas puddings of winter beers.

This beer is not at all bad, quite interesting for a lager – there’s a neat hoppy bitterness to it that matches the weather almost perfectly. It’s a rich and coppery amber with an initially lively head, though it dies back quickly, leaving only a thin lacing. First impressions are of a slightly spicy nose, faintly toasty and a hint of citrus. The first taste is quite a surprise – it’s not hugely complex, but neither is it uninteresting. Instead it’s a clean, fruity flavour with a little butter, but the hops are in the forefront all the time, providing a little bitterness without being overly hopped.

Butter and bitter? Sounds odd, but it works. Add the slight toastiness and what you have is a Marmite sandwich type of a beer. I exaggerate somewhat, its not quite that dark and bitter, but it is certainly a refreshing change from the norm of pale lagers; it’s quite tasty and “more-ish”, I found myself wanting another one almost immediately. That I needed another is partly down to the thinness, relative to my normal run of fuller-bodied beers, but that lightness is part of its strength. It’s definitely a refreshing session beer rather than a refreshing specialist, drink-alone beer. With a good B- rating, I want to load up a plate of sausages and good bread and sit down with several of them. That would make for a good afternoon picnic in anyone’s garden.

Black Diamond Amber Ale

14 April, 2009 5 comments


Black Diamond Amber

Black Diamond Amber

It’s inevitable that, from time to time my perusal of American beers leads me back to English ale styles and ingredients. Never one to ignore stuff from the land of my birth, the description of this ale as being styled after “traditional British Special Bitter”, I could hardly resist using picking up a six-pack for a quick spin.


Generally, the English beer drinker is faced with three broad categories: Bitter, Lager and Other (generally darker stuff from Brown Ale through Mild and on to Stout). Given that at the age of eighteen I was weaned onto Bitter, it’s the beer that I still use as the baseline for many of my comparisons.

This ale is pretty close to a Bitter, as it should be, given that the brewers say “…we use the finest English Pale and Crystal malts…[and] several varieties of British Noble hops added at various stages of the brew. I would love to try it on tap rather than from a bottle, as I’d generally rather have my brews unsullied by too much carbonation. My preference is still the romantic one of a beer pulled from the cask by an old-fashioned beer engine, and preferably in the dingy decor of the pubs of my distant youth.

I wasn’t entirely disappointed by this one; it’s the right colour, it smells right and it’s clearly beer. So for the full skinny, read on… Read more…

Chasing the Snake – Albino Python

13 March, 2009 1 comment
Albino Python label

Imagine my utter delight when I stumbled upon (I avoided saying “came across”) this delightful label in the Davis Food Co-op. Now I’m not normally given to buying a beer based on the label, any more than I judge a book by its binding. This time, however, the New York Shmaltz Brewing Company did it for me, with one of their “Freak Beer” brews.

Here’s a practically pornographic freak snake blow-job fetishist beer label from Hell, that manages to hide a beer that is almost certainly from Heaven. Thankfully, the label is not the only thing that stands out. The label may be somewhat erotic, but the beer itself is, saldy, only exotic. It’s reminiscent of Hoegaarden, a weissbier-styled lager with a sweet and slightly spicy finish.

It’s malty enough for me, and hoppy enough to stay balanced from the first sniff to the last swallow, and with a 22-ounce bottle, there is, thankfully, plenty of swallow to go around. I managed to procure the last two in the store, one of which I gave as a birthday gift to a friend, the other being slowly demolished at home. Sadly, that wasn’t enough, and I eagerly await the arrival of the next batch at the Co-op, so that I may chase the snake to my heart’s content.

%d bloggers like this: