I’ve decided to leave this blog up indefinitely, but all new updates will be posted on the new site.
Hello, everyone. I’m checking in, as the title implies, to provide info about the new site’s progress. My job with the Census has interfered with development, but I’ve finally adjusted to the hours and resumed my work. The new WordPress template looks quite nice; as I said in a previous post, it streamlines the interface and makes beer(ein)stein feel more like an online magazine.
But there have been hiccups. WordPress blogs have a wonderful import/export function that lets you extract all of your existing content, including articles, comments, formatting, etc., and transfer it to another blog. I did this and plugged everything into the new template, but most articles came out looking something like this:
I’ve been spending a lot of time tweaking the code to make everything look as not-like-crap as possible, but I also need to update all internal links so they don’t take people to the old beer(ein)stein and correct numerous other problems, so it could take a while.
I know that the image posted above isn’t much of a taste of things to come, but hopefully my secrecy will make the full launch all the more impressive. I’ll keep updating here as often as I can, so please keep coming back. You just might find a new review or article.
Oh, and when I launch, expect a full review – not of a beer, but of my job with the Census.
I apologize for my games of deception. The new website has stalled out. In fact, I’ve barely started building it yet. But please, listen to my side. I’m not a total crapbag.
Late last Monday afternoon, just one day after I posted the Under Construction message, my cell phone began dancing across the dresser. I almost didn’t hear it. The call was from the Census Bureau, from a friendly woman offering me temporary employment as an office clerk. I’ve been wheelchair-bound and looking for a job that doesn’t require standing, so I leapt at this opportunity. There was one catch, however: I had to start the next morning.
I’ll spin the full yarn after I’ve quit or been fired. It’s a tale of temp-job terror, and it should explain why I’ve had less time for writing and more time for pondering how some “opportunities,” such as accepting a job with the Census Bureau or lunging for that grilled cheese on the bear trap’s pressure plate, should be left alone. In the meantime, I’m back for a quick mini-review (which is all I have time for with my new 3:30 a.m. work schedule) about the beer that got me through my second day of work. Unibroue’s Don de Dieu, a potent pale ale brewed like a witbier (only stronger), was the only beer in the pack I hadn’t already tried, and it helped me adjust to my new hours by getting me sloshed enough to sleep while the sun was shining. Who knew a Canadian brewery would contribute to the U.S. Census?
My glass fills with a clear, honey-hued ale, which builds a soapy cumulonimbus atop itself. The cloud smells like citrus, spice, candied sugar, dark fruit. It’s a sticky, retentive head, but once you pierce the foam the beer hits your tongue like liquid C4. Flavors of apricots, cloves, and subtle hops dart from one bud to the next like those mountaintop signal fires in that scene everyone loves from the last Lord of the Rings movie, except these flames leap and spread at the speed of sound. Each one sets your taste buds tingling, and they all come together in a pleasantly dry, crisp finish.
I’ve gotten a bit bored with witbiers, but this triple-wit assaults the senses but never loses balance, and I can’t think of anything negative to say about it. Don de Dieu works both as a flavorful experiment and as a light, refreshing session beer. Well, maybe not as a session beer – it is 9%, after all. But the beer never becomes cloying, never tries to mask its alcohol content with oversweetness — in fact it’s a little less sweet than some Unibroue beers, and yet the ABV is almost undetectable. This ale just tastes great. What more can we ask for?
Thursday: With any luck, I’ll be working on the new site. I’ll provide updates like this one here and there until it’s done, but probably not with anything resembling regularity.
Two days ago, on a fiery Friday afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona, I made up my mind to redesign beer(ein)stein. During the setup (which should take a week or so), this blog will be available — in fact, I might leave it up indefinitely, with a link to my new site — but I probably won’t have time for updates, and some links might redirect to the domain I’m working on, www.beereinstein.com, which should display a maintenance splash page that will probably link back here. Confused? Me too. Web design is an exercise in consternation.
I know you’ve come to rely on my special brand of drunken wit, so beer(ein)stein will return as soon as I can wrestle the new site onto the interwebs. I assure you, the upgrade will be worth the hopefully brief wait. My new site will use WordPress.org’s publishing platform, so it’ll feel less like a blog and more like an online magazine. The template I’ve selected delivers a more appealing, streamlined look and dynamic new navigation features. Beer(ein)stein will be back and better than ever before you know it!
EDIT: Some weird stuff happened today, so the upgrade might take longer than expected. I’ll try to continue posting regular updates here while dealing with life stuff and building the new website. Thanks for your patience and understanding!
War has erupted on European soil. In one corner, Scottish beermeisters Jim Watt and Martin Dickie (leaders of BrewDog brewing company) grin mischievously, thinking they’ve already won; in the other, the brewers at Schorschbräu (BrewDog’s German adversary) wait silently, readying a secret weapon. Each brewery wants to make the world’s strongest beer. Only one can emerge triumphant.
In 2002, Boston Beer introduced the world to super-powered beers by releasing the 27% ABV Sam Adams Utopias. But in 2009, Schorschbräu landed a fearsome blow with a 31% eisbock called Schorschbock. BrewDog then leapt into the fray with Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a 32% imperial stout. Schorschbräu’s response to BrewDog’s WMD? A 40% monstrosity. Today I review BrewDog’s latest retaliation, a 41% quadruple IPA named Sink the Bismarck! (Ha!) As of a few days ago, Schorschbräu had already announced another superbock, this one a whopping 43%. But when my friend placed this order for two bottles of Bismarck sometime last month, BrewDog’s ship-sinker was still straddling the throne, so I’m going to ignore all German news for a day and call this “Beer(ein)stein’s Review of the World’s Strongest Beer!”
As cool as that sounds, an ABV arms race probably won’t interest the majority of beer drinkers. Sink the Bismarck is expensive to begin with, and it has to be shipped from Scotland, which just about doubles the sticker price. And even if you have the cash, who wants to drink a beer that 1) seems like a gimmick aimed at breaking records and earning publicity (which could mean they’re focusing less on simply making good beer) and 2) probably won’t be on top for long, with the way these two are going at it.
Nonetheless, I managed to secure a bottle, so here’s beer(ein)stein’s review of the strongest beer in the world as of five minutes ago!
Style: Quadruple IPA
IBU: Couldn’t find the number, but I’m guessing it’s a lot
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Scotch Glass?
Serving Temp: 50°F
Price Range: $60 per bottle, comes with free bottle stopper
First, these high ABV beers aren’t built for chugging. They’re meant to be sipped like a fine scotch or brandy, which I think justifies the purchase somewhat. Wine connoisseurs regularly spend $30 or (much, much) more on 750 milliliters of Cabernet Sauvignon, and refined older gentlemen have created a popular cliché by breaking out their $100+ bottles of scotch on frigid winter’s eves. But beer is still low-brow, and relatively few recognize it as a beverage to be savored. I blame advertising. Big beer companies have spent millions convincing us that beer’s best selling point is an acceptable low:high ratio of price to can quantity.
One whiff of Sink the Bismarck will alter that perspective. This ruby-hued beer doesn’t pour — it slides into the glass, scattering bubbles across the surface. A thick, syrupy ale! Despite the lack of foam, I can smell alcohol, sweet malt, and pungent hops even before lowering my nose to the glass. Sink the Bismarck is going to be intense.
The alcohol heat is tremendous, as I expected, but somehow Sink the Bismarck still tastes like beer – not just any beer, but an IPA. The hops are huge, imparting spicy, resinous flavors, while sweet notes of honey, citrus, and caramel calm the hoppy onslaught. Hints of bright fruit and sticky pine supplement the beer’s complexities. As it warms, these flavors can become a bit overwhelming, as if some were amplified solely to hide the ABV – but, considering the size of that ABV, Sink the Bismarck is remarkably well-balanced and extremely drinkable.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t rip apart your palate. The spicy alcohol and intense bittersweetness make for a complex, rich, delicious beer … one that demands to be sipped slowly. Take a drink, let it roll around on your tongue, and enjoy the way the flavors transform and swirl into one another, like those of a vintage whiskey. But, also like whiskey, it packs a punch, so be careful. Sink the Bismarck must be savored. It’s the ultimate sipper’s beer.
My only other complaint concerns its attention-grabbing origins. Schorschbräu has already announced another 43% superbock that sinks this Bismarck; will the Scottish brewers abandon their tasty new beer in favor of something even stronger? When will the battle end? Should Brewdog refocus their marketing funds on the fantastic lineup of normal-strength beers lying at their feet, or should they continue slamming ABVs against the ceiling until these high-octane ales start to taste like rubbing alcohol? Feuds are fun for a spell, and both sides insist that this is a lighthearted skirmish, but I can’t picture this war of escalation advancing either brewery’s reputation if they keep it up much longer. Perhaps they should join forces — collaboration is popular in today’s craft brewing industry — and brew a phenomenal 50% percent beer that would let them hold the trophy high together.
I can dream. Whatever happens, it won’t change the fact that Sink the Bismarck is/was a damn good beer. I considered lowering the score for the previously outlined reasons, but that would undersell one of the most unique tasting experiences I’ve had in years.
I won’t lie; we had pizza with the second bottle, and it wasn’t bad! But I think something else would be better. I can’t suggest typical IPA foods, because Bismarck would overwhelm them, but it might pair well with a peppery cheese or flavorful barbecued meats.
Monday: I’m not sure yet. This review was a doozy. Taking the rest of the night off.
April 27, 2010
Look at the banner photograph, at its dented, gleaming denizens. Top row, fifth from the left. That bird mocks me; the key in his belly unlatches the gateway to my sanity. Whence did it come? What beer was it guarding before I pried it from that purpose? Looking at my banner now, I can name every other guardian as well as each departed escort, but this one and its mocking bird are mysteries that peck my brain. Obsession has overtaken me. So, adhering to my blogging tradition of writing articles that interest nobody but me, I will now employ all of my deductive skills to track down this cap’s lost host. Well, not now. Tomorrow. My fridge has beer in it today, so … tomorrow.
May 1, 2010
My beer lasted longer than expected, but bird and key still taunt me from their perch atop my blog. The time has come to put my talents as a detective to the test. I am Batman, and Google is my Gotham. Or my utility belt or something. Whatever. Check this out: I bring up Google and type in “beer bottle caps bird key.” I hit enter. The wait begins – and ends 2 seconds later. Nothing?! Well played, Joker.
After a few more attempts to use Google (and, of course, Google Images – you think me an amateur?!), I finally break down and post a question in a beer forum. Everyone else seems stumped, too. My investigation requires a new approach.
Step one: Find a comprehensive index of beer bottle caps with corresponding images and information. Googled. Found. But, as you know, the name of the brewery escapes me, so the index must offer description-based search capabilities. Googled. FOUND. Holy cap – that’s a lot of ‘em. After a few searches, that damned bird pops up, laughing at me! Stop that, STOP SQUAWKING, I swear I’ll throw my laptop out the—
Had a breather; feeling better. Found the bird-key cap, but for some reason the site doesn’t list a brewery. It does, however, mention a country of origin: Great Britain. My first clue! And I know a beer store that sorts by country. At the break of the new day, I will ascend the mountain where my quarry has sought shelter. I will end my chase. I will hold my decapitated foe above my head and howl.
May 2, 2010
Received only silent stares when I entered the store and asked the clerk where I could find freshly stocked vengeance. Learn a joke, people! Made my way to Great Britain section. Scoured the tops of bottles.
Saw the gold and black chickens glinting under the artificial light, issuing challenges! Grabbed a bottle and tilted it back to reveal the label. St. Peter’s Brewery. Huh. Oh wait! I remember drinking their Old-Style Porter! Did I like it? Can’t remember. Bought a bottle. Just – to be – sure.
May 3, 2010
I know not what madness assailed me on the night of May the Second. I awoke this morning on the roof of my parents’ house, gripping an empty bottle of St. Peter’s Old-Style Porter in my right hand and a badly bent bird-cap in my left — my writing hand. Roofing tar had begrimed the cap’s jagged edge. Beside me, carved into the shingles themselves, were the words “DIE BIRD,” followed by some surprisingly cogent and well-mannered tasting notes.
Apparently I thought the porter “smelled faintly of rich, dark chocolate” and “cascaded onto the tongue with subtle notes of coffee, carob chips, and roasted malt.” Then there’s more foul-mouthed bird commentary (and something about a maiden named Lenore). I’ll skip that part and avoid mentioning such deviations again, having barely stopped myself from using “fowl-mouthed” once already. My conclusion: “St. Peter’s porter represents the ‘old-style’ perfectly, tasting like a blend of aged and new beers with a lovely medium body and sharp, complex flavors. I’d drink it again.” Hopefully without going bananas.
Thursday: A review of the strongest beer in the world.
In this second edition of Fighting Flagships, I’m taking on three craft beer heroes, the same as last time. If you don’t remember anything about this ongoing feature, that link should explain things. If you can’t be bothered to click it — and, let’s face it, I’m grateful for any small amount of clicks my little blog can get — Fighting Flagships is an article where I take three randomly selected flagship craft beers and pit them against each other to see who wins. The winner gets a … uh … a Golden Godzilla! Yeah. Click here if you’re new here and wondering what in the hell Godzilla has to do with beer.
Anchor Steam Beer | Anchor Brewing Company
Anchor Steam is an American craft beer classic, and Fritz Maytag, the former owner, is one of the fathers of modern microbreweries. After he purchased the failing Anchor Brewing Company in 1965, and began bottling Anchor Steam, the quintessential California Common beer, many other brewers followed his lead, opening breweries of their own. Anchor Steam was one of the beers that jump-started American craft brewing. Here’s hoping the new owners, The Griffin Group, don’t screw up that legacy.
I pop the bottle open. This isn’t my first Anchor Steam, nor my last. As it pours, this beautiful amber lager creates a creamy head that exhales subtle, flowery aromas. Crisp carbonation complements the raw, complex flavors, which include sweet (fruit and caramel); earthy, toasted malt; and subtle licorice. Dry grain and hops on the finish.
When people hear the word “lager,” this isn’t what they expect. A raw, flavorful beer with distinct personality – great for any kind of drinking, session or otherwise. Grab a bottle if you see one.
Ellie’s Brown Ale | Avery
Great, now I have to like this. After visiting Avery’s website and reading about how this beer is dedicated to Adam Avery’s dead lab, Ellie, I’ll seem like a total jerk if I criticize it. I can hear it now:
Me: “This beer is mediocre.”
Reader: “So you get your kicks insulting dead puppies, you monster?”
Might as well pour myself a glass – the beer is brown with a decent head – and take a whiff. A little woodsy oakiness. Sharp, bitter – but nice. A commendable start. I take a sip. Similar oakiness; lots of earthy flavors; and something else. Subdued hints of … tuna? Weird. Not awful. Just … odd. Kinda makes me want a tuna sub. I don’t really know what to say about this one. I didn’t hate it – I might even try it again some time. But I’ll make sure to have some albacore handy for pairing.
60 Minute IPA | Dogfish Head
Another old favorite. Its big brother, the 90 Minute IPA, ushered me through the gate into the majestic world of India Pale Ales. It pours reddish gold, like lustrous amber resting below a cloud of billowy white foam. Sultry lace slinks up the glass as I drink.
Subtle nose for an IPA. Floral, citric hops, and some bready malt, too. On the first sip, this beer walks up and assaults your tongue. First hit: sharp, estery herbs and citrus; intense flavors of fresh hop oils. Second: Toasted malt counterbalances the hops and softens things up a bit. Third: Illusive alcohol warmth, which is especially noticeable alongside the dry hop bitterness on the finish.
Overall, an incredibly tasty beer. Nice flavor and drinkability for an IPA. I think I still prefer the 90 Minute, which has livelier flavors and a higher ABV to back them up, but the 60 Minute IPA is clearly a better session beer and will cost you fewer dollars per bottle.
And the Golden Godzilla goes to …
Monday: I address the mystery of my banner’s bird-key cap (which I’m sure only I have noticed and been baffled by — odd, seeing as I am the owner of said cap).